Letters to the Editor

LWSD understates long-term cost of bond measure | Letter

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The Lake Washington School District states that its $755 million bond measure, Prop 3, will cost taxpayers 53 cents per thousand in assessed value. This statement is true for 2015-2018 when only a fraction of the bonds have been sold and the district is collecting only $18 million per year. As all bonds are sold over the next six years, the district will collect more and more each year so property taxes will increase substantially.
The principal, $755 million, and interest, $535 million, on the 2014 bonds are projected to cost $1.29 billion by the district, interest and payment info obtained through a public records request to the district. The Lake Washington School District will need to collect an average of $52 million each year from 2019 through 2041 when the bonds are retired. In order to collect $52 million per year, homeowners will be taxed $1.55 per thousand – about three times the 53 cents the district says it will cost. Take note of how the school district carefully only states what it will cost from 2015 through 2018. Annual taxes from the bonds on a $500,000 house will eventually be $775, not $265.
Voters should also realize that we still owe $627 million for bonds issued in 1998, 2006 and 2012 that won't be fully paid off until 2029. These older bonds already cost taxpayers an average of $42 million per year.
The school district has offered to give Kirkland $10 million for a new pool - if the bond measure passes. Wouldn't it be more economical for Kirkland and Juanita voters to approve a pool bond?
The bonds will pay for the $170 million replacement of Juanita High School with a STEM wing. The measure also provides $138 million to tear down and rebuild two fantastic middle schools, Kamiakin and Evergreen. It is such a waste to demolish these two schools. They could be updated for a fraction of the cost. The bond measure will also spend $100 million tearing down and rebuilding Kirk, Mead and Rockwell Elementary schools.
What the bonds won't provide is adequate elementary classroom space. Elementary schools in Redmond and Sammamish already have acute classroom shortages and overcrowding and only one new elementary school is proposed for the two cities for the next 8 years. Kirkland has some elementary capacity, but new construction, especially in the Rose Hill area, is adding new homes and students that will quickly fill the excess capacity.
Kirkland will get one new elementary school in 2016, but that school will probably be full soon after it opens. No additional elementary space is planned for the next 8 years. When the state funds all-day kindergarten in 2017-18, the elementary schools will also need space for the additional kindergarten kids.
More than half the bond measure money will be spent tearing down and rebuilding six schools in the district. Very little will be spent to build elementary classroom space that is desperately needed. The bonds will burden homeowners and families with high property taxes for years.
Voters should reject this bond measure and tell the district to come back in 2015 with a bond measure that builds the space that we need at a reasonable price.

Susan Wilkins, Redmond


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