Lucky Americans – we get to vote on taxes

January 27th, 2010 by Ken

It’s election time in Thurston County.  As a full “Vote By Mail” county you should have already received your ballot.

You will find just one issue on the ballot, a request from your local school district for money.  In Lacey, Tumwater, Griffin and Rainer it’s a two-year maintenance and operation levy.  In Olympia it’s a levy to upgrade school buildings and improve the technology in the classrooms.

Every year it seems, we have school levies on the ballot.  It has become a rite of Spring – – voting on school levies and school issues.

Friends of mine who live in Canada and visit here often can’t believe that we have as many elections as we do. They say that no matter what time of year they come down we have an election of some sort.

I reply, “that’s what you do in a democracy.  You vote on isses and candidates.”  Apparently in Canada they let the elected officials make the decisions in regards to spending money.

But here in Thurston County we the taxpayers, are charged with making the spending decisions, particularly when it comes to our educational system.   While courts have ruled that it is the paramount duty of the state to fund basic education, the burden always falls on us – – the taxpayers.

What makes the burden even more difficult is that local school districts can always ask us, the taxpayers and voters, for more money than the state gives them.

There is currently a lawsuit pending that will determine, again, what constitutes basic education and require the state to fully fund that decision.

But, we’ve had such lawsuits in the past and each time the legislature, under great pressure from special interest groups (teacher’s unions) has always buckled under and allowed school districts to collect more.

Over the years basic education as defined by local school districts has always included local levy money.

In the North Thurston district local levy funds about 19 percent of the basic education budget.  In Tumwater it funds about 18 percent and I suspect its similar in all local school districts.

It’s unfortunate that local taxpayers have to make the decision every two or three years as to whether or not they’re going to tax their property more, in order to fund basic education.

But, as my friends from Canada also noted “It’s great that you have the opportunity to say how your money is spent.”

That’s the way I look at it.  And that’s the way you should look at it.

We’re lucky to live in America where we have a say in how our money is spent.

Posted in Government, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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