Excess Wa-Hi bond funds should go back to taxpayers

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Convincing voters to approve a $48 million bond to fund an overhaul of Walla Walla High School’s campus will not be an easy task, particularly given the lingering effects of the recession.

The need is there. Wa-Hi might look lovely on the outside, but its insides — particularly the science building — are in need of modernization. The school’s classrooms in the 50-year-old academic building don’t mesh with today’s technology, are too crowded and are too cold in the winter and too hot in the spring and fall. It’s telling when students are thrilled to find one of their classes is in one of the air-conditioned portables plopped on the campus.

But voters will have a lot to consider before casting their ballots in the Feb. 12 election. Some of the factors they will consider are whether the building plan meets the long-term needs of the community, is cost effective to build and maintain, as well as affordable to individual voters.

Another issue is trust. Do voters believe the School Board members are good stewards of their tax dollars?

Unfortunately, some citizens are still upset with the School Board for using $3.4 million in state matching funds and $1.6 million in excess funds from the Edison Elementary School bond to build the support services/transportation building and other projects. The building had been included in a bond request rejected earlier. As a result, some feel the decision to use money connected to the Edison bond was an affront to the will of the voters.

Craig Sievertsen and Shannon Bergevin, co-chairs of the Wa-Hi bond committee, have been hearing from those voters on this issue as they have been pitching this plan to the community.

The School Board had a work session Tuesday night to discuss excess funds from the Wa-Hi project, which is expected to cost $69.6 million after state matching funds are included.

Sievertsen told the School Board it could make excess funds a non-issue by agreeing to return any unused money to taxpayers or pay down the debt.

Board members should listen to the advice of the co-chairs. They are meeting with clubs, groups and individuals to promote the plan. They are hearing what folks like about the plan and what they don’t like.

Yet, Sievertsen and Bergevin were met with resistance by Board member Max Carrera, who said he stands by his decision to use the excess Edison funds and he strongly favors retaining flexibility in how excess Wa-Hi bond funds can be used.

But Board member Cindy Meyer said she would favor paying down the debt if it would help gain support for the Wa-Hi project.

The School Board members would be wise to follow Meyer’s pragmatic lead when it makes a final decision on Friday at a special Board meeting set for 11 a.m.

If the bond does not receive approval of 60 percent of voters, there will be no excess funds to worry about.

Comments

barracuda 1 year, 10 months ago

WE HAVE TO STOP this never ending spending.... NO MORE UNTILL WE PAY SOME BILLS!

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fatherof5 1 year, 10 months ago

barracuda, we have a "never ending" stream of students who just keep coming and need our continued support. Consistently supporting schools is part of what good communities do. Unfortunately, the fact is that buildings get old. Depreciation is also never ending, though the district has done a great job making these buildings last longer than could have been expected. The good news is that bonds do expire, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that our obligation to kids ever will.

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barracuda 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, I too have heard that school bonds expire.... We currently have school bonds.... Here's a idea.... Lets let this one expire BEFORE we go put another 60M into the schools. With all of the bonds and taxes already.... as well as the fact we are loosing up to 20% of our students/income.... I am going to fight to have us wait a few years!

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Mochadelicious 1 year, 10 months ago

WA-HI may need some updating, but 48 million worth? Buy a new heating/cooling system and maybe update some windows. What is it exactly they are wanting to do for 48 million? With College Place approved to build a new high school, this should help offset the over crowding of students so I hope they're not planning on expanding.

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Doceo 1 year, 10 months ago

The high school's needs go beyond simply adding HVAC and windows. While the original construction has proven to be quite sturdy, facilities wear out over time despite the best maintainance. According to the proposed site plan the majority of construction will take place on the existing foot print of the current buildings. Eight portable buildings will be removed corresponding to sixteen fewer clasroom spaces.

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fatherof5 1 year, 10 months ago

Mochadelicious, you ask what the district wants to do. Here's a link to a district video tour of the main issues. The video is just under 14 minutes long and features some short interviews with current students and teachers, as well as an outline of the overall project. And here is a link to slide shows and other information about the bond. The board has now voted to use any excess funds to pay down debt.

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namvet60 1 year, 10 months ago

fatherof5 - I like to wish a lot myself but in the end I have to look at my budget and see what I can accomplish. This school bond is coming off the property taxes and in the last 4 years my property taxes have increased $500. I always hear the same old story about construction costs are down and it would only be a small amount to pay off this bond. When you put a whole bunch of small amounts to pay off it comes to a large amount and if you are in the private sector you know that the wages have been stagnant for quite some time and it doesn't look like a huge increases in wages in the near future. So the bottom line is the property taxes are as high as I can possibly afford and still put food on the table. I'm not whining, I'm just explaining that I've had enough about paying small amounts and I have nothing left to live on!

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nelly9294 1 year, 10 months ago

Im a student at Wa-Hi and please all i can say is before you make your decision watch this video. Mick Miller has done a wonderful job trying to give citizens insight. This is a walking tour of our current high school and gives small facts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rHXDnqvL7I&noredirect=1

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