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Fact-check the Buzz About the Bond

We’ve heard some myths and misinformation in the community about the Highline bond. Here are some of the statements going around – and the facts.

Buzz
“The school district can do anything it wants with the bond money.”
Fact
Legally, the district cannot spend bond money on anything not identified in the bond resolution. Bond money cannot be diverted to any operational costs, such as salaries for teachers or administrators, programs, or materials.

Buzz
“The district laid off a lot of facilities workers and let school buildings fall into disrepair.” 
Fact
During 2008-2010, when all school districts and all departments were making budget cuts, Highline did reduce maintenance and custodial positions in order to keep cuts away from the classroom. We have since built staffing back to the level we need to care for our buildings. For a district the size of Highline, the state recommends a total of 149 full time positions in maintenance and custodial staffing. Highline currently has 144 full time positions.
 
We have reduced staffing in some categories, such as full time painters, because schools replaced as a result of the 2002 and 2006 bonds have fewer painted surfaces.

Buzz “As property values go up, the district collects more and more money.” 
Fact
The district cannot collect more than the dollar amount approved by voters. If property values increase, the bond tax rate goes down, so the dollar amount paid by the homeowner does not increase.

Myth
“We should not run another bond until existing bonds are paid off.”
Fact
Voter-approved bonds are the only way to pay for school construction and renovation. The state does not provide capital funds for schools, except as a partial match after voters approve a bond. Bonds are financed over about 20 years, like a home mortgage, so in order to stay on top of capital needs, school districts must run bonds every few years. This means that bonds overlap. When a bond is paid off, the tax is discontinued.

Buzz “The district never asked if our community can afford this tax increase.”
Fact
It is up to each individual voter to decide where this bond fits in his or her own spending priorities. It is the school district’s duty to present the needs of students to the voters.
 
School districts have no other option for funding capital needs except voter-approved bonds. The state does not provide capital funds for schools, except as a partial match. 

Buzz “The north end of the school district will get nothing from this bond.”
Fact
Every school in the district will get security improvements that will make all students safer. Electronic locks will be installed on every classroom door, so doors can be locked immediately in case of emergency. Video surveillance systems in every school will be upgraded to up-to-date technology.
 
The bond includes dollars to design a new Evergreen High School, as well as Tyee and Pacific campuses, so that these projects are shovel-ready when a future bond is passed. This will save taxpayers $23 million dollars and speed up the construction schedule by about two years. 

Buzz “The Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) was a PR stunt.”
Fact
Former Burien city councilmember and CFAC Co-chair Rose Clark summed it up this way: “The [district] staff is like our employee. We direct them in what the committee needs to move forward. If I did not feel this process was community driven, I would resign.” 
 
See what other CFAC members say about the process in this video.
 
While not every member agreed with every aspect of the bond package developed by CFAC, the school board accepted CFAC’s recommendation and placed it on the ballot unchanged.