Tri-City Herald: Mid-Columbia school measures deserve support

For those voters in Kennewick, Burbank and Benton City who have yet to send in their ballots, now is the time to get cracking.

The deadline is Tuesday for school measures in those communities, and all are reasonable requests that deserve support.

Kennewick School District

In Kennewick, school officials are hoping voters will support a $89.5 million bond that will allow the district to build two new elementary schools in south and west Kennewick, a new Westgate Elementary, a new middle school on Southridge Boulevard and a new Desert Hills Middle School adjacent to Clodfelter Road.

The number of students continues to climb and portable classrooms dot the playgrounds because there is not enough room for all the kids in the main buildings. Updated and additional schools in Kennewick are a necessity, not a luxury.

The cost of the bond measure is an estimated 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. With an average home in the district worth about $200,000, that amounts to about $44 a year. This is a small price to pay for the number of new school buildings proposed.

Columbia School District

Columbia School District in Burbank is running a three-year, $6.5 million maintenance and operations levy along with a $975,000 technology levy. It has been four years since voters approved both of these tax requests, which will expire if they are not replaced.

State money is not enough. Without local funding, programs like athletics and arts diminish or are eliminated. Without the technology money, the school district’s efforts to stay current will suffer. Both tax measures combined will cost residents $3.81 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which amounts to $381 a year for someone who owns a $100,000 home. Both proposals are crucial to the district’s continued, quality operation.

Kiona-Benton City schools

In the Kiona-Benton City School District, voters are being asked to approve a $750,000 six-year capital levy aimed at purchasing new portable classrooms for the district’s elementary and middle schools. The need is urgent and voters should not hesitate to think of the kids and support this request. Five portable classrooms had to be removed because of black mold. The remaining six portables are decades old, have terrible insulation, ragged carpet and aging heating and cooling systems.

The levy would generate $125,000 a year, which could potentially buy 10 portables. It would cost 20 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value for each of the first two years. Then the rate would drop to 19 cents per $1,000 for the next two years and 18 cents for the last two years. A property owner with a $150,000 home would pay $30 a year at the peak rate. This request is a no-brainer. Ki-Be kids deserve a safe and comfortable learning environment.

The Herald recommends approving all ballot measures in the Kennewick, Columbia and Kiona-Benton City school districts.