To the editor:
My Jan. 18 tax letter included plans for Leavenworth residents to start paying an estimated $85 million for repair of our stormwater drainage system. Another big tax in the form of a possible Unified School District 453 new building bond issue might compete for tax dollars. The amount of increased taxes for either project is unknown.
John Richmeier, a Leavenworth Times reporter, does an excellent job reporting USD 453 Board of Education meetings. He reported that BOE members at their Sept. 6, 2017, study session discussed a possible new building bond issue that Superintendent Mike Roth said had been discussed by central office administrators. Members would be asked at next week’s meeting if they wished to move forward with “information gathering.”
But when members met on Sept. 13, 2017, “Roth said district officials already had met with representatives from DLR Group.” That is the “ … architectural and engineering firm …” that will assist with a possible campaign for a bond issue. In fact, “Representatives of DLR were on hand” at that meeting including, “Troy Wade, community consensus expert, …” On Sept. 16, 2017, Roth said DLR would be at “no cost to the district at this time.”
Roth suggested that BOE members vote in December to determine if a bond issue would be put before voters. But at the Dec. 20, 2017, meeting, DLR Group’s Amber Beverlin said, “ … a few more meetings need to take place before a plan can be presented to board members for feedback.”
At the time of our 2008 20-year bond effort, there were two previous bonds with outstanding amounts. One was almost retired, while the other had a major balance still due. This highlights the laddering of bonds. The 2008 bond would enter payments as the earliest was retired, leaving two active bonds. Another is about to retire, so a new replacement is planned. This gives credence to the saying, “Once a tax, always a tax.”
In 2008, both the ballot question and the news article cited a $57.8 million bond. But that was just the amount of importance to contractors. The tax levy page shows that taxpayers were on the hook for $96.8 million which included 31 percent from the state and the interest. So ifa $42 million bond is the proposed ballot question, that will be only the cost for the contractors. In addition, the law has changed how much help a school district may or may not receive from the state.
Former Rep. John Bradford carried a bill for transparency in ballot questions by requiring a statement of the full cost of bond issues. Maybe that bill is still kicking around in the statehouse, but it failed to pass when submitted.