February 20, 1997 in Washington Voices

Incorporation Not Needed To Fill Mead Schools

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Unpublished correction: In the published text the name of Jack Dein was spelled Jack Dien.

Realtor Jack Dein says he proposed incorporating the City of Mead to help the Mead School District, but school officials aren’t sure if they need or want such grand help.

There are enough subdivisions already approved, they say, and enough residential development applications on file with the Spokane County Planning Department to ensure that Mead schools will have plenty of students in years to come.

Besides, said Mead superintendent Bill Mester, creating a city to support a school district is flip-flopped.

“What we don’t want to have happen is to have to incorporate to fill the schools,” said Mester.

“We want to serve the needs of the community, not have the community serve the needs of the schools.”

But the school district has many reasons to support incorporation, which proponents say would open open vast areas now protected by the Growth Management Act to development.

Every 10 homes built in the district means, on average, six new Mead students. Each new student means more money from the state.

“Growth in the school district is obviously advantageous to our financial health,” said Al Swanson, assistant superintendent for finance. “Every student we receive generates state funding. The more students we have, the more discretionary funding you have.”

Encouraging wholesale development, however, can prove to be a liability for the district, said Mester. Building new schools is not easy; preparing for the opening of Mount Spokane High School has been difficult and expensive.

The district believes development in north Spokane County will continue, ensuring full schools and round budgets.

“It’s not a matter of if it will grow, but how fast,” said Mester.

A recent surge of plat filings at the county Planning Department would seem to support that view. Between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11, developers requested approval for 576 lots on 1,136 acres in north Spokane.

There were 16 zoning change requests to make way for more density in December of 1996, compared to only four in December of 1995.

The deluge was spurred by an impending decision by Spokane County commissioners on urban growth boundaries. The boundaries drawn by the commissioners last Tuesday hem development on the unincorporated North Side into corridors following Highway 395 and 2.

All plat requests filed before Tuesday will be grandfathered under older, more developer-friendly growth laws.

The Planning Department was so swamped last week that files were stacked in hallways like gift boxes right before Christmas.

“If property owners were serious (about developing), they’re in here,” said John Pederson, senior planner for Spokane County.

A builder representing professional basketball player John Stockton has proposed a 178-lot development on Mount Baldy, east of Hillyard.

Pete Raynor filed a long-expected proposal to develop 425 acres nestled against the city limits in Indian Trail. He hopes to build a golf course and 120 homes.

Harley Douglass plans a 189-lot, 419-acre subdivision in Colbert.

A handful of proposed lots on the Five Mile Prairie are in the Spokane School District, and plans were also filed for a 32-home, 320-acre development in the Deer Park School District.

However, most of the plats filed are in Mead. The school district is charting long-term growth through a committee of parents, local business people and school staff. The committee, with the help of a growth management consultant, hopes to have a 10-year plan ready later this year.

School finances are tight now because of costs involved in opening Mount Spokane High School next September. But Mester said the district is comfortable with enrollment projections, and is enthusiastic about the quality of education.

“Mead schools and their faculty are here to serve the people,” said Mester. “We will have ample kids to fill schools.”

, DataTimes


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email