Yes on Peninsula School District measures

The News TribuneJuly 9, 2014 

Conventional wisdom says that when voters are confused, they tend to vote no. If that holds true Aug. 5, children in the Peninsula School District will suffer.

They’re jam-packed into classrooms and portables in the fast-growing district. A ninth elementary school must be built and another, Artondale, replaced. Middle school science classrooms are badly needed throughout the district, as are security upgrades to better protect children.

Maintenance problems are getting worse, and systems are starting to fail. Unless voters support Propositions 1 and 2, there will be no relief in sight – and the cost of fixing the problems will just keep going up.

Voters can be excused if they don’t quite understand why they’re being asked to support both a $60 million bond issue and a $55.9 million capital levy. It’s hard enough to get support for one tax measure, much less two.

But the ballot measures were structured the way they were as an acknowledgment that voters who won’t support a 20-year bond measure might be willing to support a five-year capital levy. There’s also a higher level of voter approval needed for a bond measure (60 percent) as opposed to a levy (50 percent).

The two ballot measures are complementary, not conflicting. And voters would not be taxing themselves for a total of $115.9 million. If they approve both measures, Proposition 2 would automatically convert into a $2 million technology-only levy for a total cost of $62 million. That funding is badly needed; currently many students are using computers bought in 2003 – ancient by current standards.

The district would get the best bang for the buck if voters pass both measures. The total tax rate if that happens – about 92 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – would mean that property owners’ bill would still be below the average school taxes paid in Pierce County. And it would also enable more projects to be done more quickly because the district would get the money up front rather than a portion each year of the levy’s duration.

These ballot measures might seem confusing, but the compromise reflects the fact that the district was paying attention after the narrow bond failure in 2013.

Supporters reached out to opponents to learn what they would be more willing to support, and they’ve held several meetings to educate the public on the district’s needs and what the ballot measures would accomplish.

Good schools are important not only because they better help the next generation prepare for productive adult lives, but also because they are good for property values. That might not be something homeowners care about at tax time, but it certainly is when they try to sell their homes.

There’s a reason real estate agents tout “good schools” when selling homes in districts that pass school funding measures and try to avoid the subject in districts that don’t.

Peninsula voters have only approved one capital bond measure in 24 years; their schools can’t endure much more neglect before it starts having a serious effect on student performance and the community’s reputation.

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