Opinion

We did the right thing on Election Day | Editorial

Voters did the right thing when they approved property tax levy renewals for San Juan Island EMS and San Juan Island School District maintenance and operations.

You will continue to pay a property tax of 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for EMS services. If your home is worth $300,000, that’s $105 a year – no out of pocket. It’s a great investment in the health and security of you and every member of your household.

Because of your investment in San Juan Island EMS, a team of four paramedics and 35 professionally trained emergency medical technicians is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the latest lifesaving equipment and three intensive care ambulances. They provide round-the-clock advanced life support rescue and response, emergency care and transport.

Your investment in EMS also supports Island Air air ambulance, an FAA-and state-approved advanced life support service with the capability to carry family as well as the patient; and the Guardian, a life support-licensed water ambulance with transport capability in inclement weather when no planes can fly.

EMS also provides community education programs and safety programs, among them AED, CPR and first aid training, wilderness medicine courses for professionals and the public, fall-prevention programs for seniors, blood pressure screening clinics, lifejacket lending program at the Port of Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor, free bicycle and skate safety/helmets, free infant/child car seats, the “Every 15 Minutes” anti-drinking and driving program, and child poison prevention programs.

You will continue to pay 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation to support the school district’s maintenance and operations levy. If your home is worth $300,000, that’s $174 a year — a great investment in the education of our island’s children.

Fortunately, voters didn’t confuse this with the bond that expired Dec. 31, 2009. In short, bonds are loans backed by taxpayers dollars. The bond that expired Dec. 31 was approved by voters in 1997 and financed the remodeling of the high school and middle school, as well as the purchase of the Carter Avenue sports fields. That bond cost 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. When the bond expired, your taxes decreased 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The M&O levy is an existing levy that must be renewed every four years. The state provides each school district with money for basic education, but those funds are not enough to fully fund all district programs. That’s where the M&O levy comes in — it comprises 20 percent of the district’s $8.97 million annual operating budget.

This money supports teaching positions to ensure reasonable class sizes and comprehensive student schedules; staffing for music, visual arts and libraries; program options such as Advanced Placement, vocational and community based courses, and online classes; and transportation.

We all benefit from our school facilities. Each year, more than 50 user groups and thousands of islanders use school facilities for events, meetings and recreation. This funding keeps facilities available.

This funding is essential to sustaining remaining programs and services. In response to the economy, the school district has reduced staff and cut non-essential programs. On Feb. 9, voters did their part.

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