Comments in school levy letter inaccurate

In the Jan. 26 paper, the Mirror published my letter supporting the levy along with three other letters. One of those criticizing the levy was written by Gary Grant and was titled “School funding needs better solution than another levy.”

I had a real problem with this letter because this individual did not do his homework before writing the letter; as a result, his statements are either misleading or inaccurate.

These are the comments of Gary Grant (GG) criticizing the levy and my (GR) response:

GG: Levies are stopgap funds intended to get us through unexpected costs. They were never intended to be a permanent part of the school budget. That’s why they have an end date.

GR: Levies are not stopgap funds intended to get us through unexpected costs — quite the contrary. Rather, it is supplemental funding not covered by the state for 300 critical positions including teachers, nurses and security staff. Because the state does not fund these positions, it always has been a permanent part of the school budget, and they have an end date because there is no provision to make the levy “indefinite.”

GG: We have an increase in the number of students, due in part to the added housing developments, yet we don’t require to pay fees to offset the costs that levies are used to pay for.

GR: They do pay fees to the city for housing developments, and they do pay for the costs of these students through property taxes just like all other homeowners. As I stated earlier, the levy pays for 300 positions not funded for by the state; it does not pay for an increased number of students from added housing developments.

GG: The superintendent and staff salaries should be paid by the state or renegotiated to fit within our budget and reflect what their duties will be under the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This would also help reduce the need for a levy.

GR: These salaries are paid by the state and set by the Federal Way Public Schools Board of Directors for the superintendent and the district for staff salaries based on the requirements of the position. Because these positions are not paid by the levy, it would have no effect on the need for a levy — so his statement is totally false.

GG: We have been told of classes, programs and staff that the state won’t pay for. All of these things require permanent funding, not a temporary levy.

GR: Maybe, at some point in time, they will be funded under the McCleary decision, which will make it permanent funding; however, these are essential/critical programs and staff, and until that time comes, the district has no other option but to fund them via a levy approved by the voters.

GG: What we have not been told is what all the state will fund under the McCleary decision and how much our state taxes will increase.

GR: Rome was not conquered overnight, and the same is true for funding education via the McCleary decision. Obviously, more revenue will be needed, but the source of that must be determined by the legislature, and it is premature to assume it will come from increased taxes.

GG: We need complete transparency on all these issues, as well as a completed McCleary decision before we extend a levy that is over 30 years old and has not solved our funding problem.

GR: The district has been completely transparent on the issue of the EP&O levy. The district cannot wait for the McCleary decision to be completely addressed for two good reasons: (1) no one knows how long it will take the state Legislature to fully address the McCleary decision; and (2) the EP&O levy expires this year and must be addressed now; otherwise, the district would have no choice but to lay off the 300 employees filling the positions paid through the levy funding.

Gary Robertson, Federal Way

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