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Vote no on the LWSD bond | Letter
The Lake Washington School District was told by the public in February of this year that they were not interested in financing a $755 million bond for new schools. My expectation as a parent and voter was that rejection of the bond measure would lead the district to examine spending and re-assess capacity needs. However, rather than follow this logical approach, the school district returns to the voters two months later to try again. How many times will they do this? What happens if this new bond measure fails? Can we expect another vote this year? The district now seeks a new bond for about half of the original amount, with an intention to seek the other half in 2018. Coming from an institution that educates our children, I find this especially disingenuous. I teach my child that no means no. If they ask for five cookies now and I say "no," I’m not going to suddenly give in when they propose three cookies now and two cookies later. The district has shown no restraint in their abject desire to extract as much money as possible from the taxpayers, while making no effort to find cost savings or to explore other options to accommodate growth.
As a fact, the Lake Washington School District is currently under capacity. The district ‘estimates’ that growth will occur in the future, surpassing current capacity. But what happens if the growth doesn’t occur? Taxes associated with an approved bond will be extracted from taxpayers for the next several decades, regardless of whether actual growth occurs. What happens if another recession hits and growth doesn’t occur? The answer: the district will continue to extract money from taxpayers and will construct schools with the money, because by state law it can’t be used for anything else. Without growth, we may be stuck with unneeded schools all while paying off millions in bonds for the next two decades. There is no contingency plan with this bond measure if the ‘expected’ growth does not occur.
Interestingly, local jurisdictions collect impact fees from new residential development. These fees are reserved for only one thing - creating new school capacity. The fees are directly tied to growth within the community. The district has made no effort to seek an increase in these fees, instead coming back to the taxpayers. If the district were to seek an increase in impact fees to better fund new schools, money would only be collected if the growth occurs and not a dime in interest would be paid.
As much as I loathe the district’s second request for bond money, I find the public supporters of the district and their proposed bonds equally tactless. Anyone who dares question the district or shows opposition to the bonds is labeled as someone who doesn’t care about kids, or someone who is fine with children being educated in a brick schoolhouse with a wood burning stove. I care deeply about my own children and want the best education for them, but I also understand that if we don’t ever say no to a greedy institution such as the Lake Washington School District, that they will continue to build overly-expensive schools and never look for ways to save money or do things more efficiently. I had thought that the public had finally said no back in February, but here we are again. The district must be forced to look for other ways to accommodate growth. And if forced, they will find ways. Let’s make them do it – vote no.
Trevor Keith, Kirkland