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School levies, new bond cost more than $60 per year | Letter
A foundation for a strong community and healthy democracy is full disclosure of relevant information. We also need great schools.
Unfortunately, the initial community newsletter from Northshore School District on the cost of the levies and bond measures was incomplete and misleading. The district stated on page two that the property tax rate goes down one penny a year but then on page six they show a table where annual tax increases each year an average of $62.50 over four years. Obviously these messages are in conflict, one says down and the other says up. None of them tell us the cost over the life of the bonds or clarify why impact fees are not being charged to new home buyers.
I’ve had many conversations and e-mails with district leaders about the communication of costs and I appreciate their efforts to improve the information at the website. They have added many things to help, yet there are three things that are still unclear to most voters:
First, the cost of a yes vote vs. a no vote on the two levies is over $1,000 per year in taxes for a $400,000 home owner. Simply take the rate from Prop 1 of $2.42 per $1,000 of assessed value plus the rate of 40 cents for Prop 3 for a total new rate of $2.82 per $1,000. $2.82 X 400 = $1,128 for 2014. A no vote avoids this tax – though it would be a drastic cut in operations. The amount in prior years was $60 or so less – but the vote is whether to pay an amount over $1,000 per year during the next four years.
Second, the cost of the new bond is estimated at $257.38 per year for 17 years for the $400,000 homeowner, based on the August, 13, 2013 Capital Projects Memo. I just found this memo on Jan. 31, and had repeatedly asked the district to share their estimate online, which they had not done as of Feb. 3. It is very frustrating that the leaders of the district did not share this information from the outset. Thus, the bond alone costs more than $60 a year, and this cost will continue for 17 or so years.
Third, there is a large amount of classroom “surplus capacity” in various parts of the district, according to page 18 of 2013 Capital Facilities Plan. In 2013 there is 29 percent surplus in the district as a whole and in 2019 it would be 25 percent even without a new high school. The excess capacity means the district cannot charge impact fees, whereby the new homeowners would more equitably pay for new buildings. From a finance perspective, it does not make sense to build something new when there is existing capacity and that capacity keeps us from equitable financing.
Based on what I’ve learned, I voted to reject the bond, Proposition No. 2, but I voted yes on the two levies. Hopefully you were fully informed when you voted.
Ken Smith, Kenmore