School, fire district measures deserve voter support

The News TribuneOctober 23, 2012 

When it comes to ballot measures to be decided Nov. 6, most of the attention has swirled around the controversial referendum on same-sex marriage and initiatives backing charter schools and marijuana legalization.

School and fire district measures might not grab headlines, but they’re vital to a community’s quality of life. Voters from Federal Way and Auburn to the Key Peninsula and the slopes of Mount Rainier have important issues close to home to decide. The News Tribune editorial board recommends that they approve the following measures:

Federal Way Schools Proposition 1 – This six-year capital projects levy would raise $60 million toward the $110 million cost of rebuilding Federal Way High School, which was originally built in 1929 as an elementary school. It would also pay for upgrading or building new playgrounds and installing security cameras.

The measure, which failed in February, needs a simple majority. It would cost 92 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value each year – or $165 on a $180,000 home.

With construction starting to pick up, costs for school building projects are likely to start rising. The district needs to get moving on this project as soon as possible.

Auburn Public Schools Proposition 1 – Those construction market forces are also a factor in Auburn, where the school district is trying for a third time to pass a $110 million bond measure to rebuild Auburn High School. The school, which dates to 1950, is in disrepair and no longer cost-effective to operate. The bond would also expand parking and make improvements to the Performing Arts Center and automotive technology building.

In February, the measure received 55 percent approval, but it needs a 60 percent supermajority. Voters should support this badly needed bond issue. The good news is that the district says that the measure would not raise taxes as it would replace old bonds that are being retired.

Key Peninsula Fire District Proposition 1 – The district is asking voters to support a four-year excess levy that would raise $800,000 annually for maintenance and operation expenses.

The levy rate would begin at 44 cents per $1,000 of property valuation in 2013 ($79 for the year) and rise to 49 cents per $1,000 in 2016 ($88). The funds would allow the district to improve service and hire about eight additional firefighters. That’s a good investment.

Pierce County Fire District 23 (Ashford, Elbe and Alder) is seeking a levy lid lift that would return the tax rate to the $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013 – a rate previously approved by voters. The rate has dropped to $1.03 per $1,000 – not enough to sustain the level of public safety residents have come to expect.

District costs for equipment, fuel and training continue to rise. If the levy rate doesn’t as well, the fire district says it will have to cut services. Voters would be wise to approve the lid lift and reauthorize the $1.50 rate.

Read more endorsement editorials at thenewstribune.com/endorsements.

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