June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:35 PM
"No time to start talking school cutsIt has been many years since election results have forced South Whidbey school authorities to ask themselves, What do we cut? And this is no time to start.Frankly, if the school district's maintenance and operation levy should fail next Tuesday, we don't know what to cut. The teaching staff is sacred in a day when we need fewer students per teacher, not more. The custodial staff is already spread thin. Bayview High School is a huge plus to the community, educating kids who don't fit in with the regular routine. South Whidbey High School has outstanding arts and drama programs that must be protected. And athletics provide a tremendous outlet for all that energy our young people have, so we certainly want to keep all sports offerings.In fact, South Whidbey's public education program can't sustain any serious cuts and still remain a vital part of this community. Which is why the maintenance and operation levy deserves the support of every voter who goes to the polls next Tuesday, or who votes in coming days by absentee ballot.The two-year tax rate will stay the same as the levy approved in 1998 -- roughly $1.54 per thousand of assessed value. And while rising assessments mean revenue will increase slightly, the school district will be lucky to keep up with rising costs. The levy proposal is conservative and sensible and fully deserving of voter approval.Our main concern is that the school district's proposal is on the same ballot as the confusing and -- judging by past years -- unpopular presidential preference primary.Voters should simply remember that they don't have to make any pledges or select a particular ballot to vote for schools. As long as you sign in as usual, your vote on local issues will be counted. Don't let confusion surrounding the presidential primary stop you from supporting South Whidbey schools.Times are good; support the parkAlso on Tuesday's ballot will be a proposal from the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District aimed at expanding the park and building more ballfields.This modest measure is fully deserving of voter approval. The 43-acre Community Center off Maxwelton can be described as the jewel of South Whidbey Island, where the existing ballfields, trails, scenery and playground provide recreation for many thousands of islanders annually.Aside from a 40-acre purchase last fall made in partnership with Island County, the park's size hadn't changed in 20 years, while the human population it serves has skyrocketed. There aren't enough ballfields to serve the hundreds of kids who use them, and demand for outdoor settings and trails is increasing. South Whidbey has always had a shortage of public lands and this 30-acre expansion will help alleviate that a bit.The proposed bond issue would provide funds to pay off the Park District's share of last fall's land purchase while adding another 30 acres ideally suited for ballfields. It's important to note, however, that existing revenues can pay off that property purchase. The bond sale would simply expedite matters.At $1.45 million, the bond sale would also provide funds to develop additional ballfields. The cost to property would be inexpensive -- only 7 cents per thousand to vastly increase recreational opportunities for kids specifically and the public in general. On a $150,000 home, that works out to the equivalent of about one 99 cent video rental per month.Economic times have been great in recent years, with near-full employment, skyrocketing stock values, and improved salaries. Let's share some of our good fortune with others by approving the Parks District bond proposal. It will be a tremendous benefit to future generations of islanders at very little cost to the present generation."