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School bond an investment | Bill Kombol
When it comes to supporting public agency requests to raise my property taxes, I’m a skeptic. So, I decided to sit down with Rob Morrow, the incoming superintendent for the Tahoma School District to get the real story on the bond measure appearing on November’s ballot.
Tahoma’s schools are bursting at the seams. Why? During the recent housing recession, the value of homes dropped by 30 percent to 50 percent. Fast growing areas like Maple Valley led the nation as thousand of homes went into foreclosure and owners were forced into short sales. As these homes became more affordable at reduced prices many new families saw an opportunity to live in a popular area with award-winning schools. These new families were far more likely to have children than the previous owners.
What this means is Tahoma’s elementary schools — kindergarten through fifth grade — are so overcrowded that three of them rank among the 10 largest in the state.
One elementary school needs six lunch periods every day and three different assemblies due to overcrowding and a lack of facilities. On any given day over 1,500 students, or 25 percent of the district are housed in portables. Overall, THS schools are operating at 118 percent of their design capacity.
While the proposed high school in the Donut Hole property is receiving much attention, the real crisis is in the elementary, middle, and junior high schools. As many new families with children bought homes in the district, the K-12 school population jumped, while the local economy languished.
By building one replacement high school, the district’s current inventory of schools can be efficiently reallocated to accommodate the higher projected student populations throughout the grades. The community will also be well served by a centrally located high school near the urban core at Four Corners.
The city of Maple Valley is even providing 20 acres for sports facilities so the school district can devote more land and resources to building improvements. Tahoma has tightened their budget in order to keep the bond amount within reason. Recognizing the recession economy of the past five years, the district held back on this proposal as long as they could in recognition of tight family budgets.
The district has not passed a bond issue for over 15 years. This inevitably resulted in over crowded schools and students in portables. The day of reckoning can be delayed no longer.
Our district has been living off the accumulated capital of older schools for decades. Indeed, over the long term the district will save money as they retrofit iconic properties for coming decades.
While no one likes higher taxes, not all higher taxes are alike. Taxes for schools are almost all reinvested back into the community with dividends paid in the form of a more desirable community resulting in higher property values. Being a part of this district is a huge positive for property owners. Not only are property values boosted by Tahoma’s desirability, but so are rents.
After listening to the facts presented by Rob Morrow, I became convinced that this is the year in which the citizens of our district must join together to pass this bond issue.
Please join with me in voting yes.
Bill Kombol is a longtime resident of Black Diamond and manager of Palmer Coking Coal.