Spokane group behind anti-levy fliers in Battle Ground

Citizens for Responsible Taxation has history of opposing school-financing measures

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Anti-levy flier targets BG schools

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Battle Ground Public Schools levy

Current levy

• 2013: $22.6 million, which costs taxpayers an estimated $4.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of a $200,000 home, that costs $70.83 per month, or $850 annually.

Levy request

• 2014: $24.4 million, which would cost taxpayers an estimated $4.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of a $200,000 home, this will cost $74.83 per month ($4 more per month than the 2013 levy) or $898 per year ($48 more per year than the 2013 levy).

• 2015: $25.4 million, for an estimated $4.52 per $1,000.

• 2016: $26.3 million, for an estimated $4.51 per $1,000.

• 2017: $27.3 million, for an estimated $4.46 per $1,000.

On the Web

Citizens for Responsible Taxation

A retired tire store owner and conservative activist from the Spokane area is bankrolling a mailing urging Battle Ground voters to reject an April 23 school levy. The fluorescent yellow fliers from his Citizens for Responsible Taxation group hit Battle Ground mailboxes this week.

The flier reads: "Proposed new tax. Total cost to taxpayers for Battle Ground School District levy: $103,000,000."

Calling the entire maintenance and operations levy a new tax is incorrect. It would replace the expiring school levy, which voters approved in 2010, at a greater estimated cost per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The flier adds the estimated cost of the levy over four years, and presents the total as $17.98 per $1,000 assessed property value, or $1,798 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

On April 1, the political action committee spent $2,088.72 on printing and postage for "opposing Battle Ground district levy," according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

"The mailer from this Spokane group — which is in the business of opposing local school levies and bond measures despite the state's failure to fully fund public education — is not only wrong. It also is an insult to Battle Ground voters," said Gregg Herrington, Battle Ground Public Schools spokesman.

The group's leadership is composed of retired tire store owner Duane Alton of Liberty Lake and Spokane residents John Beal and Marilyn Montgomery. Alton is listed as the group's campaign manager; Montgomery is the group's treasurer.

"School districts are notorious for not wanting people to know what it's really going to cost them," Alton said in a phone interview with The Columbian. "We try to expose that and let people know what it's going to cost them. And they say yay or nay."

Alton, a conservative activist, lost a state Senate race in 1984 under the banner of the Taxpayers Party. He also ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 1994, 1978 and 1977 as a Republican. Earlier he founded S.T.O.P. (So Tired of Paying), an anti-tax group.

Beal, who is involved in the Constitution Party, assisted in the Alabama gubernatorial campaign of Roy Moore, who, as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building despite orders from a federal judge. The group's treasurer, Montgomery, is 2008 Constitution Party candidate for secretary of state.

Citizens for Responsible Taxation has a history of opposing school bond proposals in the Spokane area. The political action committee sent similar fliers in February opposing bond issues in the East Valley School District and in 2012 opposed a bond issue in the Reardan-Edwall district about 20 miles west of Spokane. In 2011, the group opposed bond issues in the Central Valley and Mead school districts.

"That district (Battle Ground) defeated the levy once before," Alton said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, the archaic laws allow the district to come back and ask for the money again."

Alton also said that the levy pays for "increased salaries for administrators and teachers. … Part of the levy goes to enhance the salaries and such as that. (I) got my information (from) the county auditor."

According to the district, the levy pays for about 90 of the district's approximately 700 classroom teachers, school security, assistant principals in every school, teacher-librarians, school nurses, reading and math intervention specialists, maintenance workers and some district administrators.

Vicki Sparks, chairwoman of Battle Ground Citizens for Better Schools, received the flier in the mail but "didn't give it a moment's thought."

"Its just a mailing," Sparks said, adding that hundreds of community volunteers are "busy door-belling, phone-calling and having real-person conversations with the voters."

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com