Letter - Property taxes make bond issue unaffordable for many in Valley

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Those who fervently support spending $10 million for a new Walla Walla High School science building are those who are not property owners and pay no property taxes; those who are financially well off and can afford higher taxes; and those who have something to personally gain, such as contractors, parents of students, and employees of the education system.

Look around Walla Walla and you see a city that is barely sustaining itself. Living-wage jobs are hard to find. Businesses open, then close. This is not a thriving economy.

Many homeowners are barely able to pay their mortgages, insurance and property taxes. Remodeling and other home improvements are unthinkable.

I bought my modest home 12 years ago for $115,000. Today, I pay almost $2,000 in taxes each year.

Much of that money goes to the school district. Every time I find a bigger, better home for sale, the property taxes scare me off from buying it.

Those of us who are against this bond believe this may be only the tip of the iceberg. Once it is approved, then what?

What about Lincoln High School? What about other needs at Wa-Hi and at other district schools?

What about the Memorial Pool?

Is this really the highest priority project right now? Are there not millions of high school students across rural America and in inner cities who don’t even have a science building? Yet these kids go on to college and most of them seem to do just fine.

College Place recently approved a huge school bond, and the property owners have already seen frightening increases to their property taxes. No wonder there is suddenly an abundance of homes for sale in College Place. Who can really afford to pay $3,000 ir $4 thousand a year, year after year, for property taxes?

Many of us simply cannot. That’s why we oppose this bond.

Spread that $10 million out, and fix the existing science building, make other needed improvements at Wa-Hi, and use the rest to start a renovation project at Lincoln High School.

That’s what at least 45 percent of the voters in Walla Walla want.

This bond is going to fail to get 60 percent of the voters to approve it, because the school board has failed to show any compassion or consideration for the struggles of the medium- and low-income homeowners. That’s why a large voter turnout spells defeat.

Jeffery C. Bickle

Walla Walla

Comments

NewInWW 5 months, 1 week ago

I fervently support spending $10 million for a new Walla Walla High School science building. Contrary to your claim, however, I am - I assume like you - a tax paying property owner, who has no children in school, and who has nothing to gain personally from the new science building.

I can afford the modest tax increase that would result from the bond, but then, because you are by your own admission looking for "a bigger, better home," it would appear that you, too, could afford the modest tax increase resulting from this bond.

The truth is that you and I are similarly situated. The only difference between us appears to be that I find value in providing a good public education to our young people and you, apparently, do not.

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fatherof5 5 months, 1 week ago

This letter: "Those who fervently support spending $10 million for a new Walla Walla High School science building are those who are not property owners and pay no property taxes."

Response: This is a big, broad claim. Where is any evidence to support this? 53% voted yes for a $48 million bond last year. Were they mostly renters? Evidence of this?

This letter: "Those of us who are against this bond believe this may be only the tip of the iceberg. Once it is approved, then what? What about Lincoln High School? What about other needs at Wa-Hi and at other district schools?"

Response: This is a good question. The Board and the Facilities Task Force have been pretty clear that there are a number of needs a Wa-Hi and at Lincoln, plus a few smaller issues at other schools. The hope was to address Wa-Hi comprehensively in the 2013 bond at such extraordinarily low interest rates. If you recall, the Board initially wrote into that 2013 proposal that any excess funds would go to Lincoln with the hope addressing those needs too, but the U-B advised against it, so the Board formally removed that language. The result of that - and of the bond's failure - is that here we sit again with those issues not resolved. And yes, the district will keep coming back to solve these problems because it is their responsibility to assess and address the needs of our students. So here's the deal. If you want to live in a community with quality schools then you have to pay for them. If you are okay with the children from your community attending sub-standard schools and receiving - in this case - a sub-standard science education, then vote "no."

This letter: "College Place recently approved a huge school bond, and the property owners have already seen frightening increases to their property taxes. No wonder there is suddenly an abundance of homes for sale in College Place."

Response: Exactly. CP approved a $2.70 per $1,000 tax hike for their new high school expecting 350 students. Last year, WW was asking just $ .68 to redo almost the whole high school for 1,500 students. (i.e. 1/4 the cost per household for 4 times the number of students) What WW is asking this year is just $ .30 or 1/9 of the CP bond. This comes to $5 per month for a $200k house. By comparison, the CP bond cost $45 per month. My point? WW is not doing what CP did.

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fatherof5 5 months, 1 week ago

Continued...

This letter: Is this really the highest priority project right now?

Response: Yes. According to whom? The Facilities Task Force, which is a large group comprised of a wide variety of community members and district employees who have spent the past 20+ years examining these issues so that we'd have a clear and definitive answer to the question you posed. So...yes, it is the highest priority project right now, which is what the "no" voters said last year that they wanted the district to focus on.

This letter: Who can really afford to pay $3,000-$4,000 a year, year after year, for property taxes (like they do in College Place)? Many of us simply cannot. That’s why we oppose this bond.

Response: I inserted the parenthetical because the point you were making was that people can't afford CP taxes now, which is "why we oppose this bond." As I pointed out above, this bond is 1/9 the per capita cost of the CP bond. And the next bond to fix more of Wa-Hi and hopefully Lincoln will come when the Edison bond is retired and will still cost MUCH less than CP.

This letter: "Spread that $10 million out, and fix the existing science building, make other needed improvements at Wa-Hi, and use the rest to start a renovation project at Lincoln High School."

Response: Last year's bond estimate to "fix the existing science building" was $15 million, so there is nothing left to spread out. This is where I would seriously encourage people who care about these issues to come to some Board meetings and learn more about why the costs are what they are. Believe me, if there were any way that the district could "fix the existing science building" and adequately solve some other problems, plus Lincoln, for $10 million, it would have proposed doing that a long time ago. This bond IS the effort to have the greatest impact for the least amount of cost. It is being proposed to you by the people who have done the research into how to best do this. That's why we elected them, so that they would do that sort of work for us.

This letter: "This bond is going to fail to get 60 percent of the voters to approve it, because the school board has failed to show any compassion or consideration for the struggles of the medium- and low-income homeowners."

Response: If the bond fails for this reason, it would be a shame, because this is not remotely true. Not only did the Board take a $69 million project ($48 million bond) full of long overdue projects that would have benefited 1,500 students, and whittle that project down from $69 million to just $10 million, but the Board also defied it's own task force who wanted a larger bond. The Board took some flak for that, but they did it for people just like you, Mr. Bickle. This statement is flatly false.

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