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LTTE: $2.50 school levy is a promise broken twice

Published January 31, 2020

“The opposing statement contains inaccuracies and was submitted by those with a long history of opposing schools.”

This, friends and neighbors, is what’s called an ad hominem attack.  

From Wikipedia:  “…a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.”

To quote famous author and thought leader Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
“An ad hominem attack against an individual, not against an idea, is highly flattering. It indicates that the person does not have anything intelligent to say about your message.”

I do not know anyone on the Support Ferndale Schools Committee, nor do I know or know of the named signers Rob Fickeisen, Larry Brown, or Scott Locker. 

They do not know me, or anything about me, yet they chose to lead off their rebuttal to our CON statement against the levy in the voters guide with that attack.

I just moved back to Ferndale in late 2017. I’ve never publicly said a word about school funding issues anywhere that I have lived, until directly prior to the failure of Bond v1 in the Nov 2018 election, and in the run up to the district shoving bond v2 back at us in the Feb 2019 special election less than a year ago.

Ad hominem attacks like this are the reason there is almost never a con statement on school funding issues. It’s also the reason that people who vote no on school funding issues rarely speak out publicly or lobby others to do the same.

After all, who would want to be falsely attacked and maligned by their neighbors for “opposing schools”, or any of the more classic attacks we heard in the bond campaign, about “hating kids and hating teachers” blah blah blah.

One pro levy neighbor included this in his recent comment in [a Facebook group called] Ferndale Neighbors:
“…the only school district that even had a ‘statement against’ was the Ferndale school district. That doesn’t make sense.”

What an odd observation – that because none of the other districts had con statements in the voters guide, we shouldn’t have either? 

In the same way “that’s the way its always been done” and “everyone does it” are both terrible rationales for creating or continuing public policy and corporate governance, not having an opposing statement in the voters guide, for every issue, is also a terrible disservice to the voters. 

Fair Debate 101, both sides of an issue must be equally represented, or the audience will immediately become resentful of the injustice, with half not having their viewpoint fairly represented in the public dialogue. 

The continuing discontent over the bond is due in part to there being no voice for the OVER 40% of the voters who rejected the bond in Nov 2018, and the just under 40% who voted against the bond in the Feb 2019 Special, because there was no CON statement EITHER time in the voters guides.

It is specifically because of those missing con statements, that a few of us took it upon ourselves to do so for this Levy.

In the run up to this Levy, Support Ferndale Schools told all their supporters to “dust off their lawn signs” that they had used in all the past bond/levy campaigns, with their always on campaign infrastructure they mobilized an instant army of “volunteer” FSD employees and parents to stuff envelopes and canvas neighborhoods and wave signs, they even have the Head Football Coach of FHS on a recorded robocall, with everything paid for by (unions? donations?), but supposedly no district money or official time is to be used to support the levy campaign.

In contrast, there is no standing committee “against” a levy, or bond. No group just sitting around waiting for the next vote every four years. There is no union funding, no signs, no mailers, no robocalls, and there is usually no CON statement in the voters guide. 

This year, for the first time, there is. Four short paragraphs on the voters guide, and the dialogue between voters in the community, in real life at the barber shop, and on social. Neighbors talking to neighbors, that’s the whole campaign.

There are just taxpayers, frustrated and financially strapped taxpayers, all with their own independent and nuanced views on school funding issues, some who own their homes, some that rent, but all who are feeling the growing effects of the ever-increasing tax burdens.

Six of us signed our names to this CON statement. Twelve contributed their thoughts while the statement was being written. Dozens have already publicly and privately reached out and affirmed our position, and we are very confident that there are several thousand voters in consensus.

To be clear, our objection is NOT to the levy itself, it is to the rate the levy is being pitched at. 

Let me repeat that, the writers of the CON statement are NOT opposed to voter-approved local levies. What we are objecting to is the $2.50 rate, and a promise from the district that has now been broken twice.

A core promise in the bond v2 campaign was that the cost of the additional property tax incurred by the new bond would be offset by the new state rules for local levies, capped by the legislature at $1.50/thousand. $1.50 is what was represented in the pro bond committee’s charts and in their sales pitch. The $1.66 rate of the bond was sold as affordable expressly because the local levy rate was capped at $1.50.

But because most of the school districts in the state had negotiated huge pay increases with their unions during the high tax 2018 year (the year the state raised the state levy rate, but didn’t yet lower the local levy rate, so that the districts could get a one year infusion of extra cash, at the expense of taxpayers), the districts predictably created huge deficit issues for themselves in the planned lower tax 2019 fiscal year (the year when the $1.50 local levy rate kicked in AND the state rate was cut for one year only, to “pay the taxpayers back”), leading those districts, including Ferndale, to beg Olympia for relief in early 2019, to help them out of these financial holes they had dug for themselves.

The majority party in Olympia happily complied last spring, and “graciously” raised the local levy lid from $1.50 to $2.50, breaking the promise of the Levy Swap, and the spirit if not the letter of the McCleary Decision. 

That didn’t mean that local districts HAD TO raise their local levy rate, only that they COULD. 

They COULD do it two ways:

  1. by a simple board vote if the had an existing voter approved levy on the books at a higher rate (which Ferndale did from 2016, and the board did vote in the Nov 26th 2019 board meeting to raise your 2020 levy rate from $1.45 to $2.17),
  2. AND they could ask voters to approve a NEW levy at up to $2.50.

Ferndale COULD HAVE kept the promise of the bond campaign THAT WE JUST VOTED ON LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, and asked we the people only for the $1.50 they promised.

But instead, they decided their 40 year track record of passing levies under the old rules around here was solid enough that they could demand the full $2.50.

A promise of affordability, broken twice. Trust established in the bond campaign, crushed.

  • 9,797 Ferndale voters cast ballots in the 2019 Special election where the bond v2 was approved. 
  • Bonds need 60%+ to pass.
  • Levies only need a simple majority, 50% +1, to pass.
  • If the same number of voters participate, 4,899 will be needed to reject this levy.

Don’t sit this one out, your vote does matter, get your ballot turned in, and do it early!

If you think your vote doesn’t matter, remember that we just had a TIE for a Ferndale city council seat, and it was decided by a coin flip!

If you live in the Ferndale School District, this $2.50 Levy WILL increase your property taxes and rent.

School property taxes are no longer “budget based” they are now “rate based”, new rules. Meaning that huge increase in your assessed value you just received? The $2.50 will be applied to all of it, and your total property taxes will go up EVERY year that your assessed value goes up.

What happens when the levy is rejected? Do all the schools immediately fall down?

Nope, the board then prepares to resubmit the levy for a vote, and hopefully they do so after receiving MORE input from the voters on sticking to the promised $1.50 rate.

They could choose to run the levy again in the April 28th special election, the August 4th primary, or the November 3rd General election. And when it does finally pass, there will be plenty of time to get the promised $1.50 applied to your 2021 property tax bill.

Speaking only for myself, when the Ferndale School Board puts $1.50 on the ballot, I will happily vote yes.

But in the February 11th Special Election, I am voting NO on the $2.50 Levy, and I am asking you to join me.

Do not fear the ad hominem attack, it has no merit, it cannot hurt you.

Andrew Gustafson
Ferndale


This was provided by a community member. Any opinions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of My Ferndale News nor its advertisers or supporters. Information and claims contained within have not been verified. My Ferndale News welcomes your letters to the editor. There is no word limit although 800 words is a good target to stay under. We do not publish anonymous letters. Submit your letters online by clicking here.

11 Comments

  1. Aron Thompson Aron Thompson January 31, 2020

    Thank you for standing up on this – agree 100% and know many others do as well.

  2. Christine Cicchitti Christine Cicchitti January 31, 2020

    I agree with your article, thank you for being a voice.

  3. Gordon Thomas Gordon Thomas January 31, 2020

    We have already voted no! This is another con job or more often called a bait and switch tactic by the illustrious leaders in Ferndale. We were told many times that approving the school bond our taxes would only go up a few dollars per year. That was nothing more than a pure and simple lie. People can only pay so many taxes. And I do believe we are reaching that point, I know we have.

  4. Katie Horne Katie Horne January 31, 2020

    I’ll gladly pay this amount and more for the education of our youth, who have so many pressing needs, and for the salaries of teachers and staff, who work so tirelessly and with few thanks to raise and educate the children of our community. It is incumbent upon our generation to care for those who come after us. They will be the ones pushing our wheelchairs, solving the world’s problems and reading our MRI’s, in no particular order. It is an honor to pay taxes that support their journey.

    • Ellaina Cope Ellaina Cope February 1, 2020

      I don’t believe or agree that we will leave our future generations a means to help us. They will be too busy working to pay the ridiculous high taxes.
      I voted yes, for the first time, on the last school bond etc. I have decided that since I do not live in Ferndale; I do live in the FSD, I cannot in good conscience, vote yes on this.
      I work at the Ferndale Senior Center; over the past 3+ years monetary donations have gone way down. We used to have a bus trip program. It was never a huge money maker. Most seniors could no longer afford even the bare minimum pricing of a trip, and these were day trips. In 2014, trips were around $30-$40. That same trip has now doubled and more. The rising costs forced us to put an end to our bus trip program.
      As citizens, we have to manage our money, pay our taxes etc. If we don’t, there are consequences. There should be consequences for the city and for the school district.

      • Aron Thompson Aron Thompson February 1, 2020

        Very well put Ellaina. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Aron Thompson Aron Thompson January 31, 2020

    We already pay taxes to support their “journey”. Since you’d like to pay more maybe this should be an opt-in tax and you can pay the overage. I’m voting NO.

  6. Bob Hanes Bob Hanes January 31, 2020

    I could not possibly agree with you more. This entire scam is pure bait and switch in every way. A yes vote is akin to signing a blank check as most won’t know what their 2020 property assessment will be until after the election. I have friends in Skagit county who’s 2020 assessments increased over 20%, and there’s no reason to think that similar increases can’t happen here. In the 25 years I’ve lived in this house my taxes have more than tripled. Year over year you can be certain of one thing – what they have is never enough. I’m not anti-child, and I too would vote for the promised $1.50 rate, but at some point the well runs dry and the population is going to say enough is enough. As for gladly funding their journey, I’m with Aron – if you want to write a ridiculously large check to the school district on your own accord for the warm fuzzy feeling, go right ahead – I’ll pass. I’ve already voted NO.

  7. Bob Hanes Bob Hanes January 31, 2020

    I could not possibly agree with you more. This entire scam is pure bait and switch in every way. A yes vote is akin to signing a blank check as most won’t know what their 2020 property assessment will be until after the election. I have friends in Skagit county who’s 2020 assessments increased over 20%, and there’s no reason to think that similar increases can’t happen here. In the 25 years I’ve lived in this house my taxes have more than tripled. Year over year you can be certain of one thing – what they have is never enough. I’m not anti-child, and I too would vote for the promised $1.50 rate, but at some point the well runs dry and the population is going to say enough is enough. As for gladly funding their journey, I’m with Aron – if you want to write a ridiculously large check to the school district on your own accord for the warm fuzzy feeling, go right ahead – I’ll pass. I’ve already voted NO.

  8. Bob Hanes Bob Hanes February 1, 2020

    Not certain why it posted that comment twice, but whatever.

    CHECK YOUR 2020 TAX ASSESSMENT BEFORE YOU VOTE!!!!!

    Ours was just posted on the assessor’s website and our taxes have increased over $700 from 2019 – and that DOES NOT INCLUDE YOUR PROPOSED $2.50 LEVY!!!

    Use your heads when you vote people – or your going to cost yourselves a pile of money!

  9. Bob Hanes Bob Hanes February 1, 2020

    Not certain why it posted that comment twice, but whatever.

    CHECK YOUR 2020 TAX ASSESSMENT BEFORE YOU VOTE!!!!!

    Ours was just posted on the assessor’s website and our taxes have increased over $700 from 2019 – and that DOES NOT INCLUDE YOUR PROPOSED $2.50 LEVY!!!

    Use your heads when you vote people – or your going to cost yourselves a pile of money!

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