Opinion

School district decision making

I was thinking about the failure of the school bond measure, and why we are in this situation.

My focus is on the past school superintendent and board members who failed to act on data that was available in the early nineties. I was on an advisory committee during that time and we were asked to determine the direction the school district should take regarding the high school. However, they had already made the decision to remodel the school, even after three of us tried to convince them to construct a new one. They only wanted to say our committee agreed with their decision. We spent millions more remodeling than it would have cost to build a new structure, a new school was opened that year for $12 million, but they didn't care.

Enrollments projections, as I reflect back, were very accurate. The projections of student enrollments were 50 percent from the North Bend area, currently 47 to 49 percent, and overall student numbers are very close to those early projections. It makes me wonder why the board didn't act from that time to acquire land which was cheaper, and construct schools necessary to avoid the situation they are now facing. Trust is a factor with many residents and it is not with just the schools, but the cities, hospital and fire districts. They see tax dollars wasted every year and many are becoming tired of it.

Another issue that I have read about are letters from citizens who are upset with the Snoqualmie Ridge residents, but I see the issue again as the failure of the school district and the City of Snoqualmie. It should have been obvious from the 4,000-plus residential units planned that the developer should have built the schools that were needed and not the residents of the school district. Private construction would have been significantly less, 30 to 50 percent less, than the public bid process. The city and school district could have worked out a reimbursement plan of taxes paid by those new residents to reimburse Weyerhaeuser over a twenty or thirty-year period. I don't blame the residents who live up there. They want good schools like everyone else.

Fire alarm system upgrades, roof replacement, etc., should be maintenance and operations levy items, not capital improvements, that would lower bond amounts. I would suggest a bond this year to purchase land and portables before looking at construction of schools. One step at a time, the majority of residents can afford. I also wonder if the district has a ten or twenty-year plan for new schools, upgrades/replacement of current facilities, so that we don't have this situation again. I also hope that mitigation fees charged for new home construction is sufficient to meet construction costs for new schools.

Over the years the district has made other poor decisions and residents have told me they don't trust them to do the right thing. As a board, they need to become proactive and not reactive, and have realistic proposals, because if they don't, the children will suffer and taxpayers will face extremely high bond measures that they may not pass.

Jerry Venera

North Bend

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