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Community Facilities Task Force recommends 'No Tax Rate Increase' bond proposal for November ballot - 04/18/18

Public input prompts Task Force to recommend a replacement bond rate to keep taxes the same

WALLA WALLA – “Don’t raise tax rates” was a message heard loud and clear by the Community Facilities Task Force during the community engagement phase of its nearly two-year study. This input prompted the 18-member group to unanimously recommend the Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors proceed with “Option One”, a $65.6M bond proposal, on the November 6, 2018 General Election ballot. This recommendation keeps bond tax rates the same as current rates. Walla Walla Public Schools pays off all of its existing bond debt in December and this proposal replaces the current tax rate, maintaining one of the lowest school bond tax rates in the county at $1.23/$1,000.

The Task Force has been studying two bond options since December, including a second proposal which would have raised local property tax rates by 15 cents per thousand. The Task Force decided on the no tax rate increase option after receiving data from a statistically reliable phone survey and through other community feedback mechanisms. More than 60 engagements were conducted during the Community Engagement Phase including Patron Tours, an open house event, advisory lunches, presentations and one-on-one meetings.   

“We need to listen to the community, and even though our facility needs are great, the data is clear residents don’t want their taxes to go up,” said School Board President Derek Sarley. “We have seen the results from the statistically reliable survey administered by Citizens for Walla Walla Schools and 81 percent surveyed said they would support the no tax rate increase option.”

Voters will be asked to decide on a $65.6M bond measure to renovate Walla Walla High School, Pioneer Middle School and Lincoln High School. The bond would also fund other district-wide health, safety, educational and infrastructure improvements. The school renovation projects are eligible for an estimated $52.6M in State Match funds. All State Match funds will be used to fund the voter-approved projects. Project costs will be carefully monitored by a citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee and any excess dollars remaining following the completion of the renovations will be returned to the taxpayers to pay down the bond debt.

The Community Facilities Task Force commissioned 15 independent reports, met 14 times, and spent  more than 45 hours visiting sights and deliberating over the identified projects . “We were charged with finding cost-effective solutions for the district’s most critical facilities needs and this proposal hits the target,” notes Task Force chair Paul Schneidmiller.

During the two-year planning process, members heard many themes as they listened to the community. These themes are incorporated in their recommendation, including:

  • Use State Match funds only on voter-approved projects
  • Renovate existing schools rather than building new
  • Prioritize classroom and learning needs above other improvements
  • Establish an independent citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee to ensure another layer of accountability
  • Return all excess funds to the taxpayers
  • Make sure safety and security measures across all campuses are part of the improvements
  • Maximize the opportunity for local contractor and vendor involvement throughout the improvements to keep money local

The Board of Directors accepted the report from the Community Facilities Task Force recommending Option One for the November 2018 Bond proposal. The school board instructed Superintendent Wade Smith to proceed with developing the ballot language and a resolution for approval at the May 15 school board meeting.

Community Facilities Task Force Membership

Paul Schneidmiller (Chair) - Business

Tony Cabasco - Higher Education

Jim Dumont - City WW

Roger Esparza - Realtor

Darcey Fugman-Small - Business

Chris Garratt - Health Services

Randy Glaeser - County WW

Don Holbrook - Corrections

John Keifel - Classified Rep

Dean Lodmell - Local Engineer

Dick Moeller - Local Contractor

Linda Newcomb - Local Architect

Jim Peterson - Higher Education

Kara Schulke - Parent

Phil Shivell - Local Contractor

Craig Sievertsen - Finance

Keith Swanson - Certificated Rep

Peter Swant - Port Commissioner

Casey Waddell - Finance

Jerry Zahl – Agriculture

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Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Business Meeting: April 17, 2018 - 04/13/18

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Business Meeting:  April 17, 2018

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1001835

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting: April 8, 2018 - 03/30/18

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting:  April 8, 2018

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1001835

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting: April 7, 2018 - 03/30/18

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting:  April 7, 2018

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=1001835