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Thursday, August 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial endorsement: Vote for Spokane’s future: Yes on school and library bonds; north bank for the stadium

Spokane voters have an opportunity to transform their community for the better. A trio of local measures – school bonds, library bonds and a stadium referendum – will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot individually, but they are part of a single vision for the future. But that vision only becomes reality if residents vote yes on both bonds and for the north bank stadium site.

The three measures grew from collaboration among education, civic and business leaders. Often those disparate parts of the community compete for attention and resources, but this time a unique alliance formed that will utilize tax dollars effectively and efficiently for all of Spokane.

Taken individually, the measures are rather pedestrian, the sorts of things that show up on the ballot now and then and are quickly forgotten.

The school bond proposal, would raise $553 million – $495 million directly from the bonds and $58 million leveraged from the state. That money would pay for three new middle schools to replace three existing middle schools, expanding opportunities at several schools, installing safety and technology upgrades throughout the district, and building a new stadium.

Such investment is needed to support important programs like Spanish immersion, to reduce class sizes and simply to provide the quality education environment Spokane’s students deserve.

The library bond proposal would raise $77 million for three new libraries plus modernization at four existing libraries – Shadle, Downtown, South Hill and Indian Trail. The last major library bond was nearly 30 years ago. Since then, not only has Spokane’s population grown, but the demands on libraries has evolved to reflect a digital age.

The stadium referendum is advisory. The City Council and school officials wants to know whether residents want a new stadium at the current Albi Stadium site or on the north bank of the Spokane River across from downtown.

Those are just the surface readings of the measures, though. Put them together and something magnificent emerges. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Take the three new middle schools that the school bonds would pay for. They would go on city-owned land, saving a considerable amount of money over acquiring new property. That sort of collaboration smartly stretches public dollars to maximize the gain.

Likewise, two of the three new libraries would be built near school resources, one adjacent to Libby Center and the other in conjunction with a replacement Shaw Middle School funded by the school bond. There, they can offer services and programs to students after school.

And then there’s the stadium, which caused so much drama this summer as officials debated whether to even include it in the school bond. They ultimately did, but they couldn’t – or wouldn’t – decide whether to place it on the existing Albi Stadium site or move it closer to the city’s center. Voters should affirm the latter.

Albi Stadium has a storied history, but its location in the northwest part of town is not at all convenient. Bringing the new stadium to the north bank near the Sportsplex would help economically invigorate that part of the city core. It also would be much more convenient to access by families from around the city and serve all schools, saving on the need for duplicative fields at every one.

If both bond packages pass, they would cost 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Most years that would mean more taxes, but this year it won’t because taxes are going down by even more. A realignment of state funding for schools means the property tax rate would still drop by about $1.22. When tax rates are on the decline, it’s the best time to capture some of it and reinvest.

In exchange Spokane winds up with fantastic new facilities that address needs for smaller class sizes, more libraries, and a new stadium. The mayor, the school superintendent, library director and everyone else who worked hard to develop this package of measures are to be commended.

Show your thanks by voting yes on both bonds and for the north shore stadium site.

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