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February 22, 2019

1/30/2019 12:15:00 PM
Three strikes against levy

It is levy “season” again for some Skagit County public schools, including La Conner. Some unique circumstances affecting the La Conner school district need to be examined before the proposed levy deserves community endorsement:
First, the “McCleary Fix” was supposed to reduce/eliminate local school tax levies by “fully funding basic education.” To pay for McCleary, the state’s share of local property taxes was increased. The LCSD committed the majority of new state monies to raise teacher salaries – the highest in the county, as I recall, with future sustainability in question. With new state funding for “basic education,” why were teacher salaries given such high priority over other district needs to the extent that a substantial local property tax levy is again proposed?
Second, there is the egregious effect the Great Wolf Lodge court decision had on the LCSD and residents. The implementation of this unchallenged Ninth Circuit ruling removed 931 properties – the majority in Shelter Bay – from county tax rolls, causing local taxes on remaining properties in La Conner to increase as much as 25 percent. It also opened the door for the Swinomish Tribe to establish a new “tax authority” that collects equivalent taxes for tribal use without taxpayer representation. Historically, the Swinomish “contribute” only about 60 percent of the tax monies collected to the District, not 100 percent the county collected prior to Great Wolf. Why has LCSD school leadership not taken the Swinomish Tribe to task for not paying their fair and full share of taxes collected?
Third, there is a fundamental matter of equity and fairness: How is it possible for Swinomish Tribal members who reside on tax-exempt reservation trust land to vote for local property tax measures – taxes for which they have no personal liability that are fully paid by others? This travesty is grossly inequitable and unfair (the owner/renter argument does not apply). Why is this allowed?
Bruce Elliot
La Conner

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