I have very seldom written letters to the editor and probably even more seldom voted no on a school bond election. However, this bond for the Oak Harbor School District is an easy no vote for me.
First of all, it is being sold as a replacement for the 2006 High School Bond (that I voted for) that will be paid off in December 2022. This is not a replacement; it is a new bond to construct/replace four different elementary schools plus a new transportation center.
This is written as a “take it or leave it,” “all or nothing” proposition. I can’t believe that now that the high school bond is almost done, we all of a sudden immediately need these five new projects. It appears to me that this bond was put together to simply maintain approximately the same amount of revenue for school construction (actually an increase of $.17 per $1,000 assessed valuation) that property owners have been paying the past 15 years and then deciding what can be done with it.
It may well be that some or all of these projects are needed, but it should not be a bundled program. If we need a new elementary school, propose a bond proposition for it and we’ll vote. If we need a new transportation center, same thing. Don’t just assume that since we have been paying $1.72 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the past that we are going to be happy with the new bond at a projected $1.89/$1,000 now. Maybe it’s time to give the property owners a little relief instead of another increase.
To illustrate how much property owners have been paying for schools, the following is a breakdown of my situation. This is public record and I encourage everyone to do the research. In 2017, my total property tax was $3,049 with $1,859 going to schools (61%). In 2022, my property tax is $5,081 with $3,287 (65%) going to schools.
So, in five years, my total property tax has gone up $2,032 per year (67%) and of that, the school portion has increased $1,428 (77%). And now the school district is claiming that they are only asking for another “small” increase with this “replacement” construction bond.
One of the arguments made on the Oak Harbor Public Schools District home site is that unless we approve this bond package, we will not get Impact Aid from the Navy. I think this is misleading. The only Impact Aid the Navy is providing for this bond is for two of the schools, Crescent Harbor Elementary and the Hand-in Hand Early Learning Center and Home Connection. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that a bond election exclusively for those two projects would still receive the same impact aid and they would probably pass easily as a stand-alone bond issue.
Another argument made for the bond is that the state will help with up to 20% of the costs of new school construction, depending on factors such as age. When looking at the Olympic View Elementary proposal, it shows the state contributing less than 5% of the cost. Is it low because the state considers the school too new (built 1968, remodeled 2002) to justify rebuilding it?
The Oak Harbor Elementary plan may be a good one to do also, but again, the state is picking up less than 10% of that cost. It should also be a bond issue on its own merits.
I will probably get skewered by some of my teacher friends, but I really feel we are having the wool pulled over our eyes. In the past I have voted in favor of almost all school bond issues and I do support giving our students the best education possible. But this particular bond rubs me the wrong way.
Lastly, to those voters who don’t own property and are renters only, did you ever wonder why your rents are increasing?
Please vote no for this school bond on Feb. 8.