Passing school levies is one of essential obligations of citizenship in Washington state, where we seem unable to develop or stick to equitable statewide funding strategies.

Ocean Beach School District is asking voters to renew its Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and Technology levies in balloting that starts this week and concludes Feb. 8. This request comes at a difficult time, with economic difficulties hurting family finances in southwest Pacific County.

There has perhaps never been a time when supporting these local taxes has been more difficult or so important. Without a doubt, we must renew these levies and keep Peninsula schools moving ahead with many positive trends.

Together, the M&O and Tech levies provide about $1 out of every $4 spent by the district. All by itself, losing this money would be disastrous. Imagine loping off a quarter of your own family’s after-tax income. It would be hard. Now imagine cutting that out of the daily budget of the places where your children or grandchildren spend their days, on which their futures depend. Really awful.

Still, if cutting local schools by 25 percent was all we had to worry about, the situation might conceivably be manageable. School officials would quite reasonably come back with another proposal, and with any luck it would probably pass. 

But all this is happening within a larger context of horrendous state education cuts, which also mean loss of federal dollars. In all likelihood, Ocean Beach Schools will lose $360,000 in these funds this year because of a $1.1 billion statewide budget shortfall. And then, the projected state shortfall for the next two years is five times this amount.

Legislators and the governor will doubtless try their best to minimize impacts on kids and teachers, but it will be very surprising if schools don’t take additional harsh hits in the current legislative session.

We have it within our power to minimize this destruction by making the responsible choice to renew these local levies. Our yes votes add up to a smart choice — to tax ourselves for essential school programs. We can easily see and monitor how these funds are spent — in contrast to all the money we ship off to Olympia or Washington, D.C.

The school board has made a yes vote even easier, by bringing the rate levied per $1,000 in assessed property value from $1.56 now to $1.52 starting next year.

We all hate taxes. We’re all getting hurt by higher utility bills, higher gasoline prices and a lot of other stresses. But if we’re smart and moral people — and we are — supporting school levies isn’t optional.

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