The TDN editorial board has been talking to area legislators about school funding for several years now. When legislators told us some sort of flat rate property tax would be their preference, we questioned whether it could ever gain enough support to pass.
Not only did legislators garner the support to get a flat rate property tax in place to fund schools, but they put in place a new tax rate that will end up giving at least two-thirds of state households a tax reduction.
If you live in the Lower Columbia region, this is good news.
According to a story in The Olympian, most households will see a one-year increase in their property tax in 2018, then the new lower tax rates will go into effect in 2019.
The new school funding system means people who own property in Bellevue, Mercer Island and numerous other high value areas will see property taxes increase, while Cowlitz and surrounding counties will see taxes go down.
We will be digging deeper into how the funding changes effect local folks, so look for more on this soon.
New Toledo school bond
Last November, voters failed to pass the Toledo School District capital bond by a narrow margin. The $14.2 million bond would have brought much needed updates to Toledo High School. The TDN editorial board wholeheartedly supported the 2016 bond effort.
Fast forward to today and it appears the Toledo School District is leaning toward asking voters to approve a smaller bond offering. In a TDN story this week, we learned Toledo Superintendent Chris Rust will be asking the school board to approve and move forward on a $12.9 million bond.
We don’t know the details of how the money would be spent if the bond is passed. What we do know is Toledo High School needs significant improvements.
In anticipation of the 2016 vote, the TDN editorial board spent the better part of a morning touring Toledo High School. People told us the school was in terrible shape, so we decided to see for ourselves.
The folks who said the school was in terrible shape were wrong – it’s worse than that.
We hope the Toledo school board agrees with Superintendent Rust and moves forward with another bond effort.
We’ll keep you posted on this.
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Columbia County District Attorney
After 30 years, Columbia County DA Steve Atchison has retired. Thirty years is a long time and Atchison is to be commended for his service and commitment to Columbia County.
The new DA, Jeff Auxier, has big shoes to fill.
We appreciated Auxier’s quote in a TDN story about him a week ago. Auxier said, “I’ve already taken steps to reach out to the agencies involved and the loved ones of Chief Painter.” It would be good for all if the Butts trial was able to move forward sooner rather than later.
One item we’ll be reaching out to the new DA about is the Rainier Senior Center. The Rainier Senior Center had about $35,000 either disappear or misused. An investigation was done and TDN reported on the results.
The Columbia County DA’s office did not charge anyone for the loss of $35,000 and we’d like to know why. The report detailing the financial loss seemed pretty clear that the money was not used appropriately.
Readers from Rainier have been calling us consistently for months now wondering what, if anything, is going on. And we’d like to tell them why.
When we get answers, we’ll pass them along.
Lions Island lights
We finally agree on something the city is spending the Kuntz fund on – new and improved lights on Lions Island.
In 2012, the city decided to tap into the Kuntz fund, that at one time was supposed to be spent at a rate of about 20 percent per year. When Ernie Kuntz died in 1993, he left $100,000 to the Parks Department, which was used to make improvements on Lions Island.
Later, when his wife Arlene died, she left around another $600,000 to the Parks Department to spend on park improvement throughout the city. The fund remained untouched until 2012, when the city decided to spend it.
We’ve questioned the use of this grant money in the past. Is improving RA Long Park, a seldom used park in the middle of the Civic Circle, really the best use of the money? We don’t think so.
But the Council has stated on numerous occasions that it’s their fund to use as they choose. In 2015, just three years later, the fund had been depleted to less than half the original amount.
This time we agree with the decision to improve Lions Island lights. The Christmas lights at the lake are lovely and something that we all as a community look forward to seeing during the holiday season. And we look forward to seeing the new lights!