I was elected to represent and protect the interests of Bellevue residents by serving on Bellevue Council. The single most important function of Bellevue Council is to ensure the proper, effective, fair, and just use of the millions of tax dollars we collect from our residents every single year. That’s why I’m writing today. I’m writing today because Bellevue Council is, in my opinion, spending taxpayer dollars in a manner that is not only unfair and inequitable, it simply doesn’t make any sense.
Before I dive into the actual issue at hand, allow me to offer an analogy. Let’s say two friends decide to go out for dinner. For the sake of the story, let’s just name those two friends Alan and Ben. Alan and Ben are great friends. They’ve been neighbors since the day they were born. They know each other extremely well. They’re practically brothers. Thus, Alan and Ben decide, rather than pay for their own individual meals, they’ll order family style and split the check evenly down the middle. It’d be nearly impossible to decide who ate more of the appetizers, entrees, or the desserts because they like to share. At least, that’s the prevailing belief and intention of the two friends. However, after they’ve enjoyed their meal, the server delivers their bill. In total, the cost of their meal was $100. It was a nice meal, slightly expensive considering the quality and location, but nice, and both parties voluntarily agree to the grand total of the price to be paid. However, when the server splits the check “evenly” between Alan and Ben, Alan’s bill totals $35 and Ben’s bill totals $65. Ben, rightly protests, as they agreed to a 50/50 split of the meal, but Alan likes his price so he’s not budging and the server just shrugs and says, “Oh, well…” ultimately forcing Ben to pay nearly twice as much for a meal he and Alan shared equally.
While, the analogy is far from perfect, this is precisely what has been happening and will likely continue to happen with regards to the School Resource Officer at the Northgate School District. In the real life situation, Alan represents Avalon taxpayers, Ben represents Bellevue taxpayers, and the server represents the Northgate School District. For the past 15 years, Northgate has been blessed by the ongoing presence of a uniformed Bellevue Police officer at the high school. I graduated from Northgate in 2001 and remember when the program started. There’s no denying the value having a uniformed officer among the student body throughout the school year. He not only serves to protect the students, faculty, and staff from acts of violence, he builds trust among the student body that is valuable outside of school as well. Let me be perfectly clear in stating, I love that there’s a police officer in the school throughout the school year. I am by no means seeking to remove the officer or make our students less safe (as our President of Council suggested last night).
The problem, however, is that Bellevue taxpayers are being forced to pay 65% of the officer’s salary, even though he is serving a school district which represents two communities equally.
Allow me to explain the numbers: The Northgate School District is funded by the tax dollars of both Avalon and Bellevue residents. Equally. Whether a person lives in Avalon or lives in Bellevue, residents of both communities pay the same percentage of tax to their shared school district. Pretty simple. It’s fair, clean, and everyone is happy. However, when it comes to the police officer on campus, only 70% of his salary is being paid via Northgate tax dollars. The other 30% of his salary is being paid solely by Bellevue taxpayers. Thus, of the Northgate portion, 35% is being paid by Avalon and 35% is being paid by Bellevue. Combine Bellevue’s portion of 35% with the additional 30% being thrown in on top, Bellevue taxpayers are singlehandedly paying 65% of the SRO’s costs.
No other school district that I’m aware of does the math this way. It simply doesn’t make any sense. And, not to mention, it’s not fair! School districts represent the interests of every community within their district. The tax dollars it collects come from the residents of every community within the district. For this reason, all school districts that utilize the services of an on-site police officer pay 100% of that officer’s costs; Northgate being the sole exception. It simply doesn’t make any sense.
Last night, during the June 2016 Pre-Council Meeting, a heated debate broke out after a proposal was made to ask Northgate to begin paying 100% of the SRO’s costs. That motion was voted down by a 5-3 vote. Kathy Coder, Linda Woshner, and I voted in favor of the motion. The next motion was to move to a graduated system where in which the school district pays 80% this year, 90% next year, and then leaves the third year open to negotiation. That motion was also voted down 5-3. Kathy Coder, Linda Woshner, Grant Saylor, Vencent Menosky, and I voted against it. No further motions or votes were taken.
As we stand right now, Bellevue Council simply won’t make a decision. Will we continue to rake Bellevue taxpayers over the coals for a service shared equally with Avalon or will we finally wake up and realize that this just doesn’t make any sense? Some have suggested that we approach Avalon to ask them to make this an even three-way split. Avalon Council has stated in no uncertain terms in the past that they will not force their taxpayers to pay more for this service. And they’re right, they shouldn’t, because it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s pretend the cost per resident for the SRO officer is $100. If Bellevue, Avalon, and Northgate split that cost three ways, Avalon taxpayers would send $50 to Avalon and $50 to Northgate, Bellevue taxpayers would send $50 to Bellevue and $50 to Northgate. If Northgate just took over 100% of the funding, everyone would just send $100 to Northgate and be done with it. The funds are coming out of the same pockets whether it’s an even three-way split or Northgate just takes care of it all like all other districts in the region.
Instead, as it stands, Avalon taxpayers are sending $70 to Northgate, while Bellevue taxpayers send $70 to Northgate and an additional $30 to Bellevue.
If you’re a Bellevue taxpayer and this doesn’t make any sense to you, please let me know. If you agree with me, I beg you to contact the rest of Bellevue Council and demand that they switch their votes. You can find their e-mail addresses by clicking here. We have a meeting on June 28. All it would take is two people to switch their votes so that no one is paying more for a service being shared equally between our two communities. Feel free to comment below or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any thoughts or questions.