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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

CV construction deserves support

The Spokesman-Review

Seven years ago, the Central Valley School District was gearing up for a $78 million bond issue, the largest in Spokane County history. Population growth and housing development had swept past the school district and overwhelmed its capacity. Patrons responsibly and generously agreed to assume the extra tax burden necessary to catch up with the growth that was going on around them, and district officials expected the new construction to take care of their building needs for years to come.

Now, those years have come – sooner than expected – and the challenge of paying for still more construction is facing CV again. Another bond issue is planned for this fall, this one for only – only – $55 million.

Twenty years ago, when timber sales from public school trust lands were heftier, the state paid about 60 percent of the cost of school construction statewide. In a region of the country where it takes 40 years for a new generation of trees to mature, however, the trust lands are no longer the lucrative funding source they once were, and the state share of school construction costs has dropped almost by half.

Thus, many local districts facing growth pressures are looking for ways to take some of the pressure off, and CV is one of them. District officials have asked Spokane County and the municipalities where CV students live to begin collecting an impact fee on new homes built within their attendance area. School districts don’t have the authority to levy the assessment directly under state law, but cities and counties do. The fees would be assessed on home builders on a per-house basis, and the builders would pass them along to home buyers as part of the purchase price.

CV’s need is most intense at the east end of the district where the Greenacres Elementary School is nearly full and Liberty Lake Elementary is expected to be one-third over capacity next fall. Portable classrooms are in use in crowded schools, including the new University High School that was built with proceeds from the 1998 bond issue.

So, with houses sprouting up like mushrooms in a rain forest, even many developers agree it’s reasonable for those who profit from the population increase to underwrite at least a portion of the cost of mitigating growth pressure.

And that’s all the fee is meant to cover – a small portion. But it eases the burden on taxpayers who already have provided, maintained and upgraded the existing capital infrastructure of the school district.

Vigorous growth in the Central Valley School District is a positive sign. People want to live there and, presumably, benefit from strong civic institutions, including schools. A modest surcharge on the cost of a home is a reasonable price to pay.

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