As election day nears and island voters mull over their choices in local elections, it’s worth considering all that is at stake in local elections.
First, of course, is a great deal of money.
In 2023, about $20 million of the property tax dollars collected from islanders was slated to go to local governmental entities, overseen by local folks elected as commissioners and board members of our school district, fire district, health care district, park district, and cemetery district.
If everyone had paid the full tax rate of $9.18 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2023 (which we know has not been the case) that would mean about $10 million for our school district; about $5.5 million for our fire district; about $2 million for our health care district; about $1.5 million for parks, and about $120,000 for our cemetery district.
And all that only accounts for about 40% of all the taxes authorized to be collected on Vashon — totaling about $46 million.
The other 60% goes to off-island governments, but still comes back to Vashon in a multitude of ways: the state school property tax; levies that pay for things like sheriffs, road construction and repair; the Neighborcare Clinic at Vashon High School; programs that benefit seniors; our water taxi; Island Center, Dockton and other county parks; the paramedics who work at our fire station; our library and more.
Each election is a chance for us to determine how these vast public dollars are spent on behalf of all the citizens of Vashon.
We salute the candidates who have stepped up to run for local office and hope they realize the magnitude of their responsibilities.
Because, of course, more than money is at stake.
This year’s school board election has drawn particular interest and passion, after a difficult year for the district that included two investigations of teachers accused of serious misconduct, but also the departure of several administrators. Our district, like many others in the state, has also had to grapple with budget shortfalls.
In the past several weeks, we’ve solicited commentaries for the candidates running in contested school board races, and hope you’ve read and considered their words carefully — as well as a raft of letters to the editor from islanders who are passionate about the election.
In 2024, we’ll chronicle the actions of those who are elected and hope for their transparent and responsive governance of island schools.