Letters to the Editor

Guest opinion writer has math wrong on LWSD bond measure | Letter

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Letters to the editor
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I support the School bond and believe the Guest Author of April 4 has his facts and math wrong.

First, Lake Washington School District schools can’t be compared to the poorly-designed schools in the Monroe School District.

The Monroe School District suffers from a lack of community support for bonds to build new schools. The budget compromises and restricted choices Monroe has been forced to make should not be a model for Lake Washington.

The new Monroe High School is disappointing. The school was partially built in 1999 with a $24 million bond. Its last section was completed in 2005 financed by a second bond for $4.7 million.

Now, nine years after its completion, the high school uses eight portables for classrooms and the main building is still overcrowded. The Industrial Arts and the Physical Education spaces, the hallways and cafeteria are especially crowded. Athletic fields are subpar.

Also, no one likes that the school looks an awful lot like the nearby prison.

Additionally, a recent school inspection reported that the “Cost consciousness (of original materials and construction) is showing.”

The district is facing limited options for improving the high school.

To learn more, visit the facilities page of their website.

Second, the $404 million bond most certainly can be financed and retired over 20 years and 25 cents per $1,000 assessed value is not the bond’s annual interest rate.

Since 1998, voters have approved three property tax increases for financing school construction projects. These tax revenues pay the interest and principal on two bonds and a construction levy that have financed 22 school modernizations, a new STEM school, and additional classroom space.

As a result, in 2014, the combined property tax for these capital projects and the debt service is $1.31 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Currently, about a quarter of this tax revenue pays down the construction levy and the rest for outstanding bonds.

For the proposed bond, the school district worked with bond underwriters to determine the annual payments.

The district and the underwriters reviewed existing payments for the other bonds and levy, noting when these loans were scheduled to be paid off.

A payment schedule for the proposed bond was set so that its payments increase as the other bonds and levy are retired. The net effect is to keep the annual total property tax rate for capital projects and debt service at an acceptable level.

All five elected School Board members reviewed and approved the financing plan for the proposed bond.

Visit “Five Facts about Funding New Schools” on the district's website.

If voters approve the proposed bond, the total property tax rate for capital projects and debt service will only increase by 25 cents next year, from $1.31 to $1.56 per thousand. This annual rate won’t change much until decreasing to about $1.40 per thousand in year 2022.

The annual share of the tax revenue to pay the new bond will increase as the old bonds and levy are paid off, allowing the new bond to be paid off in 20 years.

So, the 25 cents per thousand is a net increase next year in the total property tax rate for capital projects and debt service, and not a permanent annual rate for the new bond. It’s incorrect to use this net increase of 25 cents per thousand to calculate the payments needed to pay off the proposed bond.

Finally, LWSD is a good fiscal manager. See the state auditor’s report of May 28, 2013.

Barbara Billinghurst, Kirkland

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