As a grandparent of three young students in Centralia, I watched with dismay as a few community members actively engaged a campaign of deception and misinformation to disrupt levy funding for schools. A number of postcards and social media communications were sent out with confusing, erroneous, or just plain spiteful language.
The owner of the Lewis & Clark Hotel Apartments financed one of the postcards. He predicted dramatic rental increases if Centralia’s levy passed. The assessment on that property did not increase this year. He is paying almost $1,600 less in local school taxes in 2020 than he paid in 2019. If an increase in taxes equals a rent increase, did the rent decrease this year when his taxes went down?
Had the levy passed, the Lewis and Clark would have paid about $331 more in local school taxes in 2021 than in 2019. Divided equally among all of his units there, each renter would have paid less than $1 in additional rent. Less than $12 per year.
Posts on social media criticized teachers who earn more than some believe is reasonable. If the budget is cut and staff are reduced, you’re still going to have the same number of people earning that much. They have seniority and contractual protections. The people who get hurt are the paraeducators, bus drivers, food service workers, and other people who support what happens in the classrooms every day. Low paid workers who can least afford to lose their livelihood.
Weirdly, some of the rental property owners who financed the “vote no” campaign in Centralia also own rental properties in Chehalis. They didn’t wage war against the $2.50 levy that was just passed in that community. Chehalis’ teachers make just as much as Centralia’s. Budget documents show that Chehalis is also in a deficit spending situation, and their general fund balance is shrinking. However, they weren’t criticized. Do these landlords believe Centralia’s children deserve less than those in Chehalis?
By rejecting the levy, voters didn’t decline to provide increased revenue to their schools. They declined to provide any levy revenue. This creates a multi-million dollar hole in the district’s budget. Programs and services that students rely on will be cut. Transportation, special education, athletics, food service, class sizes, advanced courses, CTE courses, and a lot more will be negatively impacted.
The school district will ask again in April. I have no doubt they won’t just give up on their students.
I encourage all Centralians to do their own research into the facts. School district budget documents are publicly available online. Property records are available online. Learn the motivations of people who are trying to convince you one way or the other.
Are they acting out of genuine desire to provide the best education the community can provide? Or are they acting out of spiteful motivation trying to exact retaliation on people they feel did them wrong? In the end, common sense will prevail and I encourage you to support your children and grandchildren’s schools.