Spokane Journal of Business

Commentary

 

School, city bond measures should receive voter approval

 

Spokane Public Schools has a proven track record of delivering on the promises it makes when trusted with tax money for capital projects. Consequently, voters should do what they’ve done repeatedly in recent years: Support the district’s construction plans.

The school district is seeking approval of a $495 million bond measure that will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. If passed, the measure would enable it to build three new middle schools, construct replacement buildings for three existing junior high schools, develop a new stadium that would replace Joe Albi Stadium, and complete a handful of additional projects. 

The projects would be scheduled to be completed over the course of six years. Including anticipated state matching dollars, total investment would be $553 million. 

The Journal supports the district’s plans and encourages voters to do the same.

The city of Spokane will have a separate, $77 million bond measure on the same Nov. 6 ballot, and that request deserves a “yes” vote as well.

If its bond election is successful, the city plans to build three new libraries and renovate four existing buildings. Andrew Chanse, executive director of Spokane Public Library, says the existing facilities were built before Internet technology became prevalent and aren’t equipped to accommodate technology. An update is overdue and essential to serve the evolving needs of those who account for the 929,600 visits the city’s libraries receive annually.

The city and Spokane Public Schools forecast that the construction projects would generate demand for 2,000 to 2,500 construction workers a year. Increased construction activity isn’t the driving factor for backing the bond measures, but it’s helpful to a vibrant business community to be able to ensure that work for the construction sector over the next six years.

The bond measures are coming at a transformational time in the education funding in Washington state. One consequence of the state Supreme Court decision in the McCleary vs. Washington case is that the state must shoulder more of the cost for education. As a result, at Spokane Public Schools, the levy rate decreases by $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2019.

If both the school district and the city bond measures pass, that would increase the levy rate by 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. As a result, taxpayers would still see taxes drop by $1.22 per $1,000 of accessed value, which equates to a net savings of about $20 a month for the owner of a home with taxable value of $200,000.

While the stadium is a small part of the school district bond, dollars-wise, it’s worth singling out. A third, related item on the ballot involves an advisory vote asking for opinions on whether a new stadium should be constructed at the current Joe Albi site or on an alternative site near the Spokane Arena.

To reaffirm what we’ve stated in this space previously, the alternative site north of downtown is the better of the two options. It would be more centrally located and easier to access for most high school sports spectators, and Spokane Mayor David Condon says the city believes they’ll be able to address parking concerns without spending millions of dollars on a garage.

Regardless of how the stadium issue shakes out, the bond measures should be approved. Now is an ideal time to build more schools and libraries and give other facilities essential updates.