Sammamish City Council member shocked at LWSD bond request
September 24, 2013
By Ari Cetron
New: Sept. 24, 1:06 p.m.
When she saw the proposal for a 21-percent tax hike from the Lake Washington School District, including about three-quarters of a billion dollars in bonded debt, Sammamish City Councilwoman Nancy Whitten was taken aback.
“My mouth is dropping when I added up your numbers,” Whitten said during the Sept. 16 city council meeting.
Lake Washington Superintendent Traci Pierce, a Sammamish resident, had given a presentation to the council about the district’s proposed bond and levy package. The Lake Washington School Board approved two levy requests and one bond request in August, and they will appear on the February 2014 ballot.
If approved, the packages together would fund school operations, help purchase new technology and pay for a laundry list of school construction projects.
The total cost would mean an additional 81 cents per $1,000 of property value. The owner of a $500,000 home would pay $405 per year more, starting in 2015.
The two levies are designed to replace existing levies that will expire at year’s end. Each levy would last for four years.
One measure, an educational program and operations levy, funds basic school district operations, including teacher salaries and other day-to-day expenses. The existing levy costs property owners $1.78 per $1,000, and the replacement would increase that to $1.85.
The other levy replaces two existing levies. It is a proposed $41.6 million measure for facilities and technology, which will cost 91 cents per $1,000, a 21-cent increase from the existing levies.
The bond’s price tag is $755 million. The bond would add about 53 cents per $1,000 to property taxes for the next 20 years. District officials would use bond funds to accommodate a projected 4,200 new students by 2022.
“They are significant numbers to meet a significant need,” Pierce said.
Whitten said she felt “burned” by the recent bond package from the Issaquah School District, which included funding for things like covered football stadiums and other items Whitten believed were “not essential.”
Other council members pressed for details of the bond and levy, such as the ages of the schools that were being modernized or renovated, along with specific lists of what projects are included in the bond package.
The council seemed lukewarm on the proposal.
City Manager Ben Yazici pointed out to the council that having good schools is critical to Sammamish’s success.
“We couldn’t be a great city without the support and success of our school districts,” he said.
The council will discuss the measure further in an upcoming meeting and decide if they wish to endorse the measure or not.