This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
It doesn’t take a financial genius to understand that there’s no better time than the present to get moving on construction projects: Interest rates are low, and contractors are eager for the work.
That might not be the case for long if the economy keeps improving and costs start rising. So it makes sense for three South Sound school districts to ask voters now to pay for major facility upgrades that can’t be put off any longer.
They make a good case for passing measures appearing on the Feb. 14 ballot, and The News Tribune supports all three. They are:
• Franklin Pierce School District – An article Thursday by The News Tribune’s Debbie Cafazzo outlines the badly needed improvements that would be funded by a five-year capital levy.
If the measure passes, it would raise $5.5 million each of the five years to make improvements districtwide. It would cost property owners an additional $1.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013, decreasing to $1.65 per $1,000 in 2016.
Classrooms – many of them more than half a century old – would be updated, and improvements would be made to such basics as failing heating, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
This capital levy, which only needs a majority to pass, is a scaled-back version of a $78.5 million bond measure voters rejected twice in 2008. It was developed last year by a stakeholder group of more than 100 people – including parents, students, teachers and civic organization representatives.
At some point, voters must invest in their schools’ physical plants. This is that point.
• Auburn School District – Built in 1950 and in disrepair, Auburn High School badly needs reconstruction. Voter approval of $110 million in school construction bonds will do that – and keep their property tax burden level with an assessment of about 79 cents per $1,000 of valuation.
The district has been smart with its money. It refinanced previous bonds, saving taxpayers $2 million. And the high school project will be eligible for $25 million in state matching funds. Delay is estimated to add $3 million annually to the cost of this overdue reconstruction.
Among the project’s benefits: seismic upgrades, energy and maintenance savings of $250,000 annually, new classrooms, double the parking space and off-street bus-loading areas. Facilities that get a lot of community use – the Performing Arts Center, Auburn Memorial Stadium and Auburn Pool – would be modernized and improved.
A 60 percent supermajority is needed to approve the measure.
• Federal Way School District – Like Franklin Pierce, Federal Way is seeking approval of a capital levy. It would raise $60 million over six years toward the $110 million cost of rebuilding Federal Way High School, originally built in 1938. The balance will be paid out of funds left over from an earlier bond measure and state matching money.
The cost to property owners would be 74 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013, increasing to $1.12 per $1,000 in 2018. Passage – which requires a simple majority – would save taxpayers an estimated $29 million in interest because it will be repaid over only six years.
The school needs to be replaced, and the cost will only increase if this levy fails to pass. The district’s flagship school needs to come into the 21st century.