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EDITORIAL

'Yes' vote means lower property taxes for Sunnyside residents

FACT: A "no" vote on the Sunnyside School District's four-year maintenance and operations levy will raise your property taxes. There's no way around it. If voters reject the levy request, simply put, your taxes will go up.

Several years ago local voters approved two bond issues to pay for the construction of new schools in Sunnyside. The current bond indebtedness, which amounts to nearly $2 million per year, requires annual payments on those bonds stretching out to the year 2017.

FACT: Those bond payments have to be made each year for the next 10 years.

But, thanks to some prudent financing on the part of the Sunnyside School District, those bond payments do not have to be made by local residents. Instead, the nearly $2 million per year bond payments will come from excess general funds which come from a special pool of money the state has set aside. This pool of money, known as state equalization funds, aids those school districts that do not have the property tax base of such affluent communities as Seattle or Mercer Island.

FACT: There is a catch. For a school district like Sunnyside to draw from that pool of equalization money, local voters have to approve a levy.

In this case, Sunnyside School District patrons are being asked to assess themselves about $1.4 million annually for the next four years. In return, the state will ante up approximately $4.6 million each year for the next four years if the replacement levy is approved. The bond payments local school district patrons are responsible for will be taken from that equalization money.

FACT: The current bond rate for Sunnyside School District patrons is zero, zilch, nothing. Sunnyside is one of only two school districts in the Yakima Valley that does not assess property owners any taxes for bond indebtedness. That's because voters, in 2004, approved a maintenance and operations levy that paved the way for the local bond payments to be paid from the state equalization fund.

This new, replacement levy is simply a continuation of that process.

FACT: The current levy rate for property owners residing within the boundaries of the Sunnyside School District is $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $150,000 home is being assessed $201 annually.

Passage of the replacement levy currently before local voters will not only prevent property taxes from rising, it will lower your taxes. The new levy rate, starting in 2009, will be $1.20. That means the owner of that same $150,000 home will only be assessed $180.

FACT: If voters reject this replacement levy, Sunnyside will be cut off from the state's pool of equalization funds. The bond payments, which aren't scheduled to expire until 2017, will have to be made by local residents. To make those payments, a bond rate of $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed value will be required. That means the owner of that $150,000 home will be assessed $255, instead of the $180 had the levy been approved.

FACT: The Daily Sun News does not take lightly asking local voters to approve a tax of any kind. But in this instance, a "yes" vote is the right choice for Sunnyside residents.

Our property taxes will be lowered, state equalization funds will continue to flow into our local schools and the bond payments we all approved several years back will be paid by the state.

Folks, this one is a no-brainer. Your ballots are arriving in the mail this week. Cast your "Yes" vote, knowing you're helping local students while helping yourselves.

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