on Bonds…again

Back in September, our school district proposed a $4 million bond referendum to the public, which failed to get the supermajority vote (60%), so thankfully it did not pass. In fact, only 28 more people wanted it over those that did not. Nevertheless, under state law, school districts can try putting it back on the ballot – at the public’s expense of course – every six months until it passes. So, the school is having a special election this April 1, in order to try again to pass this bond. Therefore, I think that it is important that the public know some of the financial facts about this bond so they can make an informed vote as to whether we really need it now, or if we should wait.

  • Cost of the special election to the taxpayer: $1,200 to $1,500
  • Term of bond: 20 years
  • Structure of bond: Interest only until 2022, at which time the principal will start being paid down. This is due to the fact that we are still making payments on our existing General Obligation (GO) bond.
  • Estimated net property tax increase for first 7 years: $0.80 to $0.90 per $1000 of taxable property value (depends on interest rates). After that, the actual net increase in our taxes will be around $2.45 per $1000 taxable property value, as by then our other GO bond will be paid off.
  • Properties affected by the tax increase: All property classifications in the school district
  • Percentage of project dedicated to athletic and its associated spaces: almost 2/3
  • Number of net classrooms being added: 1-2
  • Lifespan of existing modular classrooms to be replaced: 20 – 25 years
  • Age of existing modular classrooms: 7 years
  • Purchase price of the modular classrooms: $188,500
  • Highest certified enrollment (2007, when the modulars were first put in place): 657
  • Current 2013 certified enrollment (now including preschool): 644
  • Average certified enrollment over last 5 years: 629 ; over last ten years: 631
  • When the Football Athletic facility bond will be paid off: 2019

The school plans on posting a handy tax calculator to the school website so you can figure out how much your taxes will go up if the bond passes. But keep in mind these caveats: First, it assumes in its calculations the homestead credit, which unfortunately, over 18% of those who live on my county side of the school district don’t get. Second, it only gives you the annual increase – you will need to multiply it by 20 to know the full impact to your wallet. Third, property values change. And fourth, you should take into consideration that you would be giving up the significant tax decrease that would come in 7 years (so the actual net increase of this tax will be higher).

The school has yet to justify why we absolutely need this now, instead of waiting 5 years until the football bond is paid off. If we do wait, we would be able to fund this project using the sales tax revenue instead of increasing property taxes, we would avoid burdening taxpayers for two more decades, and we would actually get a significant property tax decrease in a few years. If there were issues with the gym or modulars, why was the football field chosen first? Why have no attempts been made to temporarily enclose the walkway between the modulars and the building? If the gym is crowded, is it truly for every game, in every section, or just a few games, or just in the student section?

We are a creative community; we should not have to always default to the taxpayer’s wallet to get things done. I’ve seen what we can do for our kids when we put our minds to it. We have lots of talented people in this town (and Eagle Scouts in need of projects). Government entities should not assume the attitude of an eternal right to taxpayer money. Instead of creating calculators to try to sell us on how “small” the next tax increase is, why not actually do something which protects the public pocket instead of picking it?

The argument being made for this project is that the kids deserve it. I don’t think they deserve a tax increase for debt that won’t be paid off until their own children start school. I think they deserve something better. More on that next week.

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