Tuesday, Jan. 12, the San Juan Lions Club hosted San Juan Island School District Superintendent Walt Wegener and school board member Brent Snow to present their views on the M&O Levy coming up for vote on Feb. 9.
Snow, who is manager of Roche Harbor when he is not devoting time to family and all sorts of community causes, kicked off what he called the “pony and dog show.” He was most persuasive.
He noted that the signs that have sprung up along island roads telling people to drop off or mail in their ballots “today” were a bit premature. (The election being a few weeks away and ballots not in hand.) Snow and Wegener are making the rounds of civic meetings to be sure no one thinks it’s too late to vote when they receive their ballot and also to answer any questions regarding the dire need for a pro vote on the issue.
Ordinarily, there are knee-jerk reactions against any increase in taxes. Not this time. This vote is for a four-year renewal of the existing levy, which comprises nearly 20 percent of the district’s $8.97 million annual general operating budget.
The M&O levy is NOT to be confused with the recent bond measure that expired. That measure, approved by voters in 1997, funded the remodel of Friday Harbor High School and Middle School and the purchase of the Carter Avenue site for a future school and sports fields. That bond measure’s expiration lowered your taxes 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
In November, voters approved a 7 cent increase in the Island Rec levy to fund school sports, which were eliminated from the school district budget. In addition, the school district this year moved sixth-graders from the middle school to the elementary school, cut five teaching positions and 1 1/2 administrative positions, and reduced hours for other staff members.
The M&O levy funds essential needs: 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; online classes; and transportation.
Some seniors and disabled citizens still may be exempted from the tax if they obtain certification from the county assessor’s office.
Believe me, there were plenty of questions following the Snow-Wegener presentation, made close to the Ides Of January. They satisfied every concern and doubt.
A lot of that compliance, to my mind, was caused by the district’s performance last year: Scoring in the top 25 percent academically in the state … the acceptance of our students in top colleges and universities across the nation … the superior ratings of our band program. The nomination of Friday Harbor High School as one of seven in Washington state for the U.S. Department of Education 2010 Blue Ribbon Award the category of Outstanding Academic Performance.
Small wonder that, as of the meeting, the elections board hadn’t found anyone to write a “con” argument for the voters guide.
Snow and Wegener sure convinced me, and I’m still working at age 88 and haven’t any kids or grandkids in school now.
Go with the F.L.O.W. (Ferry Lovers Of Washington).