By Katie Kresly, Gem of the Sound Reporter
Dear Highline School District,
I am writing this letter in response to your Press Release sent to the Gem of the Sound, dated November 2nd, regarding Proposition 1, Highline Schools Bond.
First, as a Highline District community member, I recognize that providing modern, safe facilities for all district students and school employees is both desirable and important and that the proposed new designs for Tyee, Evergreen, and Pacific are “shovel-ready”.
However, I still have some serious concerns about how this 2022 Bond has been promoted.
In September, the District held three community bond sessions to show designs and describe the Proposition 1 plans and its financial impact. $518 million for three schools seemed a little pricey, but stretching it over 21 years would ease the yearly tax burden. It was simply replacing the expiring bonds and levies, and the tax rate would reduce to $3.86/$1000 assessed property value, so our taxes would stay stable and not increase, even with raising property assessments. Excellent.
Yet, on October 6th, based on a modified King County estimate for slower future growth, the District reverted to the current, higher tax rate of $4.40/$1000 assessed property value, instead of using the widely promoted “reduced $3.86/$1000 tax rate.” There was not a public announcement or press release to update this change. The correction was only found on the Highline website. If the vast majority of voters are unaware of such a significant change, how is this transparent?
Throughout October, the campaigning effort, led by Yes for Highline PAC, was robust with colorful mailers, calls, texts, voter pamphlets, digital marketing, and door-to-door promotion. Plus there were six community “Listening Sessions” and a board meeting, all of which continued to promote “No increased taxes”, and many included a “$3.86 tax rate,” with minimal attention to the $518 million taxpayers would pay over 21 years.
Again, there was ample opportunity to inform voters of this change, and to explain how it was possible to keep the taxes stable.
Now, the district is in a pickle. The King County Tax Assessment tool (which Yes for Highline marketed for “transparency,”) based on $3.86, is now showing a much different projected tax bill for homeowners. And the voters are indeed “confused.”
Perhaps the voters will approve this bond, and perhaps they won’t.
Either way, the schools will eventually be built because if this 2022 effort fails, another revised bond proposition is sure to follow.
To be clear, most voters believe that all students deserve a good education in safe schools. Good schools help communities thrive. However, these same voters also appreciate full disclosure from their district leaders when they are deciding on a bond to rebuild schools, or a levy to help with learning.
Regardless of the outcome of this bond, I hope your future campaigns for both bonds and levies will be abundantly transparent regarding the true costs to the taxpayers.
Highline Resident and Taxpayer