Gateway: Opinion

Letters to the Editor for the week of April 5

Poor management of school funding threatens finances

I’ve supported the Peninsula School District throughout my working years but escalating school taxes and poor management of school funding are seriously threatening my financial survival on a fixed income.

When I retired in 1995, I had my mortgage paid off, no outstanding debt and two sources of retirement income, one for living on and one to cover property taxes. The school assessment on my property tax is $2,166 - up from $865 in 1995, with my property taxes at $4,908 - $1,828 in 1995 — more than two and a half times what they were when I retired. A month’s retirement annuity will no longer cover my property taxes. Frugal living, budgeting and self-maintenance of my aging home are barely keeping me solvent.

The latest building boom of 1000-plus homes in Gig Harbor has generated more than $3.5 million and one-time impact fees, which have been spent on portables instead of investing some for new construction. the school taxes these new homeowners pay generate another 3.5 million plus every year. is this money going into the general fund instead of being targeted for specific needs (i.e. maintenance, repairs and upgrades)?

The need to fully fund basic education is a given but has never been defined. The escalating cost of expanding curriculum in the band-aid approach to facilities maintenance and expansion have resulted in school district spending that can’t keep up with its income - no matter how much they bring in.

Reigning in runaway spending is wiser than throwing more good money after bad as this aunt is getting tired of paying for the grasshopper extravagance the public school system has become.

James B. Langhelm,

Gig Harbor

Thanks to Gig Harbor library for writer support

I’d like to thank the Gig Harbor branch of the Pierce County library for its support to aspiring writers. By opening its doors and reserving a room for local writers for many months, the library has assisted in fulfilling dreams in our community of scribes.

Elizabeth Corcoran Murray, |

The Writers Connection

PSD: Efficient or Grinch on school funding?

The recent Peninsula School District publication, Compass, included the 2018 Pierce & Kitsap County School District tax levy rates and touted the district was the lowest. While that may be true, what does that tell us about how PSD compares on a dollar-per-student basis? Does it mean PSD is the most efficient or maybe we are the region’s Grinch on school funding? We don’t know because it a false statistic PSD uses every time a funding vote comes up. It is based on housing values and housing in the district is high.

Using figures from the district’s website, the expenditure budget results for 2017-18 is $13,134.75 for each of the 8,729 students. Is that indicative of good management? I don’t know.

Mike Hirko, Gig Harbor

Funds needed for Alzheimer’s care

The Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report reveals that, for the second consecutive year, the total national cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will exceed $277 billion in 2018.

In the state, there are over 110,000 people living with Alzheimer’s dementia. Over half of the patients cared for by Franciscan Hospice have some form of dementia. We see every day the struggles of families trying to care for their loved ones. Many times it becomes impossible to continue to care for them at home. As a concerned physician caring for these patients and families every day I join the Alzheimer’s Association in advocating for more attention to this public health crisis and specifically for more assistance to family caregivers.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country. Medicare and Medicaid cover the lion’s share — $186 billion, or 67 percent, of the total health care and long-term care payments for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Protecting these programs is vital. Finding a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s will prevent the cost of the disease from engulfing Medicare and Medicaid.

National Institutes of Health scientists in their Professional Judgment Budget recommended that Congress increase funding of Alzheimer’s and dementia research by over $425 million in fiscal year 2019.

The financial toll of this disease — on individuals living with the disease, their families, and the community — is too high. I urge Reps. Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck to continue their support for people with dementia and those who care for them by working to pass these needed funds.

Marilyn Pattison, MD, FAAHPM Medical Director, Franciscan Hospice & Palliative Care

Vote no on Peninsula School bond

Responsible Taxation of Citizens (RTC) has four primary concerns with the current bond proposal.

▪  Special Interests: The Peninsula School District (PSD) should not be working with donors to capital campaigns. Over $20 million in professional fees are budgeted in this proposal, many of these professionals are donating heavily to the capital campaign. These are lucrative contracts, stop potential conflicts of interest.

▪  Transparency: Provide taxpayers the same disclosures a bank would. The district will not disclose the bond underwriting costs. The district claims $220 million will be generated for capital projects when in reality, the bond underwriter Piper Jaffray gets a percentage, we estimate 2-3 percent, requests for clarification have been ignored, a public records request has been filed to get these hidden records. The bond interest expenses were omitted from general disclosures; RTC has disclosed that the total interest will be about $132 million.

▪  Accountability: Tell the taxpayers where the new school will go, pass a resolution for a minimum amount of maintenance spending so our schools never fall into disrepair again, lastly provide incremental voter approval for large amounts of spending, not $220 million all at once.

▪  Stewardship: Get better value for the taxpayers, think outside the box, embrace alternatives that can save money. Avoid costly short-term solutions such as the March 22 appropriation of $3.39 million for four portable buildings without any detailed information available to the public. A public record request is pending.

We ask that PSD immediately pass a resolution providing a $50-million capital levy in the likely event the bond fails. A capital levy has no interest or underwriting expenses.

Dan White, retired CPA and co-founder of RTC

All are welcome in Gig Harbor

Re: “Gig Harbor a ‘Welcoming City?’ Not so fast, some residents say,” (Gateway, 3/29).

Now I’ve heard everything. A 38-year, white male resident of Gig Harbor finds Mayor Kuhn’s proclamation containing “welcoming language” offensive? The offended party states he had never witnessed discrimination in our community, so ergo (in his view), there must not be any in Gig Harbor. I do not believe this is a correct syllogism.

I, also a Gig Harbor resident, felt discriminated against by this gentleman in question when he wrote an ad hominem attack against me following a 2017 letter to the editor I wrote. He derisively and disrespectfully referred to me by my name and title, repeatedly calling attention to my religion. I experienced this letter as anti-Semitic, discriminatory and even a bit scary. Such tactics have absolutely no place in public discourse. Citizens should be able to proffer differing opinions on any given topic without fear of attracting trolling in response.

It is ironic that this gentleman is currently fighting against a bond issue to address the serious infrastructure needs of our schools. The district’s children cannot vote and could reasonably feel discriminated against by the adults who have failed to provide them with appropriate learning environments. I have no children in the district, but I’m proud that my property taxes help teach children to learn to think for themselves, to engage in civil discourse, and help provide safe schools which meet children’s educational and physical needs.

Thank you to Mayor Kuhn for reminding us there are people in our community who feel marginalized or who have felt the sting of discrimination. While a proclamation may be a symbolic gesture, making sure it is widely known that all are welcome in Gig Harbor as our new mayor did is appropriate and laudable.

Rabbi Sarah Newmark, Gig Harbor

Bipartisan support for Capital Facilities bond

The Peninsula School District has not passed a school bond since 2003, and the district’s 15 schools are unsafe and overcrowded. This is a critical point in our community’s future: voters should join us in bipartisan support for April’s Capital Facilities bond, and make an investment in Peninsula schools.

The facts are alarming when it comes to safety and security. Eleven of 15 schools do not meet current fire code. Alarms, sprinklers and fire flow do not meet current code and have been grandfathered in.

When we compare our low tax rates to school districts with similar assessed values, it is more than clear that we are falling behind on facilities. We are losing out on state funds, as local funds must be secured before the state will match.

Without a capital measure in 15 years, the district has not been able to build a new elementary school in over 25 years. Instead, we keep adding temporary fixes, like unsecure portable classrooms where students are removed from the main building. At the same time, we are taking away playgrounds and parking lots and adding to traffic congestion around schools.

The district has been extraordinarily responsible with the 2003 bond money, which is set to expire in 2019. Levy and bond monies must be spent where they are designated, and an audit committee and the state make sure of this.

Because of recent changes to state funding, if this bond passes, local tax rates will still go down. But if we do not pass April’s bond, we will be investing zero in capital projects for school facilities by the end of 2019.

Terry Lee, former Pierce County Councilmember (R) and

Derek Young, current Pierce County Councilmember (D)