Shawn Jensen, Key Peninsula
Taxes—the very word provokes strong feelings. Frustration, aggravation and even helplessness rear up against the apparent onslaught of new taxes, fees and charges that government agencies from the state on down to the county, city and local public services impose on us to drain more and more hard-earned dollars out of the family budget.
This April would appear to be a particularly bad time to ask local voters to approve a school bond measure, considering those same voters are viewing their recently received tax assessments for 2018. Many are questioning whether they can afford yet another increase on top of the substantial increase that some are already seeing on their tax statements. While much of the recent increase has to do with the rebounding economy causing home values to rise, some of it is due to the new State School Levy 2 line item that has appeared on this year’s tax bill.
This new levy was the Legislature’s response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision requiring the state to fully fund basic education. While the pros and cons of this fix are the subject of an on-going debate, the fact of the matter is these dollars cannot be used for capital improvements. This is where a local capital levy or bond measure comes in.
So why run a capital bond measure rather than a capital levy?
Traditionally, bond measures have been the preferred method for funding capital improvements over levies because they can span 20 years or more, which keeps the annual taxes required to repay the bonds much lower than what a far smaller levy would require. Additionally, once capital bonds have been authorized and sold, the dollars are available immediately, enabling projects to be constructed far sooner than they could be with a levy where the tax dollars must be collected before construction can begin.
One benefit I feel is often overlooked that favors capital bonds over levies is the fact that repayment of the bonds over a longer-term essentially shares the tax burden for capital improvement construction with future taxpayers who will benefit from these improvements, rather than forcing current taxpayers to shoulder the entire burden up front. Passage of a local bond (or levy) is also a key component in making the district eligible for state matching grants, which can stretch the bond dollars even further.
The last capital bond measure passed by PSD was in 2003 and funded improvements to Purdy Elementary and Harbor Ridge Middle schools, among other things. The district has taken advantage of lower interest rates over the intervening years and refinanced these bonds twice, with the result being that these bonds are currently scheduled to be repaid in 2019, a full four years early.
Essentially, you could view the proposed bond measure as a renewal of this expiring bond that will provide ongoing funding to address the significant facilities improvements that the district, through the work of their facilities planning committee, identified as priorities for the coming years.
This bond measure, as outlined in the bond resolution text itself, would provide much needed modernizations and improvements to facilities throughout the district, along with major renovations or complete replacement of certain older schools. Finally, construction of an additional new elementary school will help ease overcrowding in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.
While I understand and sympathize with the anti-tax message, especially in light of some of the tax proposals coming out of Olympia this year, I strongly encourage support of local tax measures to fund local needs in our own community. If we, as local voters, won’t support our local agencies that provide services directly to our citizens, how can we expect others across the state to come to our rescue?
The Peninsula school board, superintendent and staff, together with the facilities planning committee, have done their homework and presented what I believe is a realistic plan to address the capital facilities needs of the district. It is a plan that I feel deserves our full support.
Please join me in voting “Yes” for Peninsula Schools April 24 to ensure all Peninsula students have access to safe, modern learning environments.
Shawn Jensen is commissioner at large of Key Pen Parks and Fire Commissioner for District 16. He lives with his wife, Sami, in north Key Peninsula. The couple’s six children attend or attended school in PSD.
This is a transcript from the Key Peninsula News from April 1st, 2018.