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Is a tax rate increase necessary to fund bond? | Letter
After reading the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) Bond Levy Report found on their website, I find it puzzling as to why a tax rate increase is necessary to fund the construction bond. Growth in school enrollment generally corresponds with the growth in population and results in growth in the real estate tax base. That has indeed been the case in LWSD based on statistics, even in LWSD’s own reports.
LWSD enrollment has grown at a much lower rate than has the tax base over the last 10 years. LWSD enrollment in 2003-04 was 23,629 (per the LWSD Annual Report 2003-2004). The LWSD Bond Levy Report (June 24, 2013) notes that enrollment is now 25,408 a growth of 7.5 percent over that 10-year time period. In comparison, the tax base has grown almost 50 percent in that time period despite the economy downturn. The LWSD Bond Levy report lists the tax base valuation as $24.2 billion in 2004 and $33.7 billion in 2014, an increase of 48 percent. Even considering inflation, there should be ample margin in the increased tax base to support a replacement bond without a tax rate increase. It is puzzling as to why this wasn’t discussed in the Bond Levy Report.
Another puzzle is why the Bond Levy Report understates the continued growth rate in the tax base by projecting only 6.5 percent cumulative growth over the next four years (just as we are entering a real estate recovery period) while forecasting an enrollment increase of 11 percent in the same period. These are wacky numbers!
I am no expert on school funding and would welcome a fair, fact based rebuttal. But it seems like the LWSD bond funding promotion is not based in any reasonable budgetary process, but is a brash sales pitch appeal to emotion about the poor state of our schools without any fiduciary concerns. Increasing taxes is not necessary and will lead to extravagant spending. Vote no to “shoot the moon” bond levies and send a message to the LWSD that you demand better management to create and maintain the quality education facilities we all want.
Jerry Nuernberger, Redmond