Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: A final argument against PenMet’s levy request

Posted on November 3rd, 2023 By: Craig McLaughlin

First, I want to thank everyone who support and oppose PenMet’s Levy Lid Lift.  This is an excellent discussion on a critically important topic.

Steve Nixon

Steve Nixon, PenMet Commissioner, says PenMet has delivered and writes his letter as if he has no connection to PenMet.  Has he delivered on my request for more detail about my misleading statements?  Of course, PenMet has done some good things, but does that allow PenMet to get your vote based on a lack of full disclosure?  It’s not whether PenMet has delivered, but whether PenMet is being open and honest with us.

Laurel Kingsbury

Laurel Kingsbury is also a PenMet Commissioner…full disclosure?

Laurel, like Steve, states that some information is  “…misleading and misguided messaging…”  I ask Laurel, as I’ve asked Steve, to state specifically what information proffered is “misleading” or “misguided.”  Steve has failed and we’ll see if Laurel does any better.   It’s easy to claim someone is being misleading, but proving that requires more than the accusation.

I applaud Laurel’s disclosure that the Levy Lid Lift could take an additional $24.6M from the voters.  Why was PenMet so slow in disclosing this?  PenMet started by saying it might result in $17.7M.

Laurel also addresses “…the fiscal impact…the District (would) face if the levy renewal fails.”  Again, using the word “renewal” when this is a new and vastly increased levy.  However, the key point is in Laurel’s answer where she states that a failure to approve the Levy Lid Lift “…could result in a 28% reduction in revenue compared to the 2017 rate…”  Laurel is inadvertently mixing two entirely separate numbers (revenues and rates).  The 28% reduction in revenue is a false statement as PenMet’s income in 2024, without the Levy Lid Lift will be about the same as in 2023.  There will be no “reduction.”  Laurel then refers “…to the 2017 rate.”  Again, the fixation on the “rate” when it’s the dollars that count.  PenMet knows its 70%+ increase in tax levies weakens its argument that it now needs even more.  Neither Steve nor Laurel nor anyone else from PenMet has disputed the 70%+ statement.  There’s nothing misleading or misguided about it.

Laurel states “These funds are essential to sustain parks and recreation programs at current service levels and fulfill the priorities established by the community.”  PenMet’s draft 2024 budget contains absolutely no necessary cuts to its “…current service levels” as I’ve already explained.  As for the “…priorities established by the community,” PenMet’s data in this regard is highly flawed.  If you ask us if we want more parks, I would expect the vast majority of us would say “yes.”  However, PenMet never discloses the cost associated with those aspirations.  The percentage of those wanting more parks would likely drop if the questions included a cost to the taxpayers.

Laurel expresses PenMet’s hope that the word “renewal” versus “new” makes the dramatic tax increase more palatable.  As I’ve stated before, in 2004, the voters approved the $.75 rate AND they also approved the maximum 1% annual increase.  In 2017, the voters approved the $.75 rate, AND they voted only to suspend the 1% annual increase for six years…not to abolish it.  Laurel says “The District is only asking residents to renew the levy approved by voters…”  Notice she uses the word “only” when asking us for what could be $24.6M of our money.  PenMet has no regard for how much your household income has increased, and it’s only $24.6M.

Laurel explains how the rate has dropped.  Again, she ignores the 70%+ increase in tax levies.  Important point:  The rate drop, by itself, does NOT cause the tax levies to drop.  Has PenMet shown you its actual levies since 2017?  Do you, the voter, deserve to know all the facts including its actual levies over the last six years?  Why hasn’t PenMet clearly stated there could be an almost 30% increase in 2024 over 2023 instead of showing small monthly increases for an expense that is paid annually?  And don’t forget the Peninsula School and Fire District 5 levy lid lifts that have done the same.  And please read Ed Friedrich’s excellent article on tax levies in general in the unincorporated Gig Harbor area: 

Gig Harbor property tax bills spike – Gig Harbor Now | A hyperlocal nonprofit newspaper in Gig Harbor

Final word:  The 1% limit was put into place to protect homeowners from being taxed out of their homes, and PenMet wants us to remove that protection.  For a summary of the 1% limit please look at this: 

The 1 percent property tax law – tax limitation that works for the people of Washington » Publications » Washington Policy Center

Finally, please ask yourself why everyone at PenMet is unwilling to publicly debate me?  If its arguments are so strong, you would think they’d jump at the chance to prove my arguments are false.

Craig McLaughlin

Fox Island

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