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Saul Spady: Seattle education levy ill-timed, will increase rent in the city

(MyNorthwest Photo)

Seattle voters are being asked to approve Prop 1, a $600 million education levy that would fund preschool education, as well as other education programs. But at a time when Seattle is facing housing and crime issues, local activist Saul Spady is arguing that it’s the wrong time for such a tax.

“Seattle’s reaching a point where we have to make tough decisions. We have a $6 billion budget, it’s one of the largest in the country for a city our size,” Spady told The Jason Rantz Show. “I don’t think now is the right moment where we need to be pushing so many dollars into something downstream, especially ineffectively.”

Grandson of Dick’s founder Dick Spady, Saul has become a local activist who was vocal in the effort to defeat Seattle’s head tax, and continues to speak out on other issues plaguing Seattle. He argues that people often don’t realize a property tax like Prop 1 will increase rents in the city. An increase to the costs for landlords (property taxes) generally trickles down to the renter who pays for it.

“It’s another property tax levy. The Seattle City Council doesn’t tell you that property taxes increase your rent, and for millennials and people who are starting to feel the pain point of living in Seattle, I think we should be really open about every new tax measure,” Spady said.

“It’s going to be about $20,000 per child that goes into Pre-K, and we’re only going to be able to provide for 2,000 of the total 11,000 kids that are needed, so there’s obviously going to be more tax increases down the road.”

The levy would replace two expiring levies, including the subsidized preschool program and the Families Education levy, which funds an array of K-12 programs. Along with incorporating those two levies, Prop 1 would add in the mayor’s college promise program, funding two years of community college.

“If we can get another 1,000 kids into free Pre-K, but there isn’t any determining about giving it to the kids who are most in need versus the kids who are less, and we maybe make 1,000 people go homeless, I don’t know if the city has accomplished its core task.”

Prop 1 education levy would cost average homeowner about $242 a year

The seven-year levy would raise nearly $620 million, and cost the average homeowner approximately $242 a year.

For Spady, if the goal is to provide free Pre-K to all, the better route would be to give every parent who wants it a $10,000 voucher for Pre-K without the government overhead.

“And we’d probably see a rash of really creative, new Pre-K institutions,” Spady said.

He also believes such a program would work more effectively with the Pre-K program that Jeff Bezos is moving forward with, which would come at zero cost to taxpayers.

“To be blunt, I don’t know that it’s about helping those most in need. In many ways, the way Prop 1 is set up is to create a whole new type of preschool that has SEIU employees only,” Spady said.

“When the city can’t build the north police precinct, when we can’t hire police officers, when we can’t keep our streets clean from needles, is free Pre-K really the core choice? Especially when it’s using a tax that’s both going to increase the burden on homeowners, and increase the burden on renters?”

RELATED: Prop 1 aims to improve access to early learning with $600 million levy
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