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Technically, bonds would be new, not renewed

School district is seeking next phase of funding for 25-year renovation plan

Campaign yard signs for ballot measures proposed by Spokane Public Schools say one way the public can “Vote Yes for Kids” on March 10 is to renew the bonds.

But that’s not quite accurate, even a co-chairwoman of the bond issue campaign concedes. The district is not renewing bonds, it’s selling new ones, totaling $288 million, and repaying the new bonds over 20 years.

“It’s not a word choice with an eye on the financial market,” said Barb Chamberlain, of Citizens for Spokane Schools.

Although the signs are urging a renewal of the bonds, what the district is actually seeking is a renewal of voters’ 2003 commitment to a 25-year plan to renovate its schools, Chamberlain said. Six years ago voters approved the first phase, some $152 million in bonds. The district will pick up what’s left of the old debt and roll it in with the costs of new construction.

It expects to seek voter approval for new bond issues in 2015 and 2021.

Property owners will face the same tax rate as 2003, so in that sense it’s also a renewal, she said.

Placing the correct verb on a campaign sign sometimes causes trouble for candidates. Someone who has only been appointed to an office can’t put “re-elect” on a campaign sign. Brad Stark had to add “elect” to his campaign signs when challenging incumbent Ralph Baker for Spokane County assessor in 2006.

But the Citizens for Spokane Schools campaign is in the clear on its signs, said Lori Anderson of the state Public Disclosure Commission. That’s because statutes governing statements in political advertising apply only to candidates, not to ballot measures such as levies and bond issues.

The PDC would have no enforcement jurisdiction, even if someone were to complain.

“For ballot measures, they get to say whatever they want,” Anderson said.

Fitting “renew the commitment to the 25-year plan with the same tax rate” on a yard sign would be challenging, Chamberlain said. But the campaign will spell out the details of the bond issue in literature to be mailed out to voters in the coming weeks, she said.

Staff writer Jim Camden can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or by e-mail at jimc@spokesman.com.


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