Walla Walla Public Schools has been my employment home for more than 20 years, the last five as chief financial officer. In my position, I manage our budget, which runs in excess of $60 million annually.
Bonds, taxes and funding for school district facilities are complicated issues and I hope I can answer some of the questions floating around our community regarding the bond election on Feb. 12 to remodel Walla Walla High School.
First, please remember that all numbers mentioned are estimates. Exact tax impacts are dependent on assessed value of property within the School District. Exact construction costs are dependent on the economy and cost of materials.
The total cost of this project is estimated to be $69.6 million. If the voters approve the construction project, local taxpayers will pay $48 million over 20 years. Taxpayers throughout Washington state will pay $21.6 million (about one-third of the project) through state matching funds. All state matching dollars received from the state will be used to pay for the Wa-Hi remodel project. If there is any money left over after the Wa-Hi remodel project, the funds will be used to reduce the debt ($48 million) that the local taxpayers are being asked to assume.
Current low bond rates and construction costs have created an excellent bidding environment. The Edison Elementary project provided work for 10 local contractors. The recently passed College Place bond is estimated to cost College Place taxpayers an additional $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation — I think an additional 68 cents per $1,000 is a pretty good bargain.
There are many good reasons to vote in favor of the Wa-Hi renovation — I hope I’ve added to them.