Critical issues on Feb. 6 ballot

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:42am
  • Opinion

Schools and public safety – it doesn’t get much more important than that. On Feb. 6, we will decide both of these issues for much of Snoqualmie Valley.

The fire levy proposed by the fire commissioners of District No. 38 – which surrounds North Bend and includes areas such as Wilderness Rim, Riverbend and Cedar Village – asks for the levy rate to go to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. This is the same amount approved by voters in 1990, but with increased valuations and an annual cap on the amount of money the district can collect, the rate has decreased to 73 cents per $1,000.

As a District 38 resident, I know we don’t pay our fair share for fire services. We don’t pay near the amount that North Bend residents do at $1.20 per $1,000, yet we all use the same fire department – the same engine, the same crew, the same level of service – and we pay less.

Fire services are a contentious issue for a vocal minority but most people don’t care about emergency services until they are needed. The fire truck better show up at my door when I call 911.

But funding at $1 provides opportunities for District 38 residents to decide who provides our fire services and what level of service we can expect. A failure in the levy will mean very few options when the contract with Eastside Fire and Rescue is done at the end of the year.

If you don’t like the direction the current commissioners are going, then vote them out of office, but don’t hold the purse strings hostage to make your point.

I would urge that an open discussion on options for fire services happens after the fire levy passes. Let’s talk about contracting with other agencies as well as EFR or even the real pros and cons about starting a fire station from scratch. It’s also time the commissioners, along with city of North Bend elected officials, hire an outside agency not affiliated with any department to put real expectations together for levels of service, equipment and funding based on our assessed value. We really need to know that we are getting what we are paying for. Vote “Yes” to support the levy rate increase and then let your commissioners know what you expect.

Quality of life is a term often used to describe features of Snoqualmie Valley. It typically comes up when describing our corner of the world to others. That same term may come up in the same sentence as schools, because the two are so intertwined.

We have always supported our schools and they are now on the verge of busting at the seams. I don’t deny that some poor information has gone into forecasting for future needs, but the reality is we need more schools.

I am also a graduate of Mount Si and the idea that we need another high school seemed a threat to the traditions of my alma mater, but reality says Mount Si will never support the number of students that will be working their way through our school system.

We are also noticing that more families with young children are coming to our Valley for quality of life and a home under $500K. The result is a need at all levels for more schools.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District Facilities Task Force did a good job of looking at all the alternatives and putting this proposal together. There doesn’t seem to be any good alternatives to the proposal. Yes, it’s expensive for each homeowner in the Valley, but a lack of educational alternatives has proven to be the demise of many young adults. We want to groom quality, society-contributing individuals and schools are critical to do that.

I urge you to vote “Yes” for the schools levy as well. If you are concerned about the siting for new schools such as the high school or a future middle school, get involved in the process and let your school board know, but don’t hold our children’s education hostage.

After the successful passage of the school levy, I would like to see the school board, facilities task force and the public get together to talk about school siting criteria. It seems this is more important for a high school. It needs to be located near areas that are growing, but away from current neighborhoods.

Sure, you can disagree with my arguments but if you don’t vote, then it really doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. So do your duty and vote Feb. 6.

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