August 23, 2012 in Opinion

Editorial: Approving school bond measure a no-brainer

 

Voters should approve the $32.7 million bond measure proposed by the Coeur d’Alene School District.

Every child in the district will benefit, taxes will not increase and, if the experience of the Spokane School District is illustrative, the dollars raised could go much further than school officials expect.

Most of the money will be used to modernize the Borah, Bryan, Sorensen and Winton elementary schools and Canfield Middle School. Canfield, opened in 1975, is the newest of a group plagued by antiquated heating and ventilation systems. The oldest, Winton still has the single-pane windows installed when it was built in 1925.

What homeowner would want to rely on antiquated furnaces and ventilation systems fashioned one-half century ago, let alone pay the utility bills for operating equipment far less efficient than today’s? Other district schools, including both high schools, will also get an energy tune-up, plus upgraded communication links and security systems.

The “portable” would be put back in portable classrooms. Out they go.

The timing could not be better.

Levies that funded construction of Lake City High School and the district’s share of the Kootenai Technical Education Campus – both excellent investments – are expiring. The new bond issue would simply keep in place the tax rate for those two expenditures. Cost to the owner of a $200,000 home? About $49 annually for 13 years with the expectation the bonds would pay an interest of 2.1 percent.

To put that in perspective, the Lake City High School bonds were refinanced in July 2007 at 4.15 percent.

Spokane School District officials were elated in 2003 when $100 million in bonds fetched a 4.5 percent rate, the lowest since 1963.

Those bonds continue to pay interest for holders and sellers.

With construction work scarce, bidding on district projects has been aggressive. Work on projects funded with those bonds is winding down, yet the district has $47.9 million left to undertake the addition of an Institute of Science and Technology wing at North Central High School and significant upgrades at Mullan Road Elementary.

The district had expected those projects might have to await bond issues set for 2015 or 2021. Instead, the district’s board gave the go-ahead for those projects Wednesday night.

Construction in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane will create or sustain a lot of jobs directly, and indirectly as money spent on wages and materials circulates through the communities. The long-term payoff, of course, is school systems better able to educate the students that the region will need to fill the more-demanding jobs of the future, and attract and sustain the employers who will provide them.

One last point: Maintaining existing schools means preserving and improving the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s always a good investment, old school.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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