Letter: David Marquez
I’ve lived on Mercer Island for almost 20 years, moving here in the early ’90s “for the schools.” I’m also a civil engineer with an MBA in finance who has developed a number of major municipal alternative energy projects. From my perspective, voting yes on the school bond just makes good business sense. I’ve spent some time comparing the plans proposed by the district and advocated by the YES campaign with the ideas put forward by the NO campaign (who either seem to want a smaller bond, or a series of bonds or a different plan).
When you analyze the approaches — a single, more comprehensive bond authorization now vs. a smaller bond now or multiple bonds — the outcome is clear. The $196 million bond before us is the least expensive plan for the next 25 years — and offers the best result by solving the overcapacity crisis, providing all MI students with 21st century facilities, offering homeowners 25-year stable and predictable tax rates, and paying off the elementary and middle school costs before we have to consider rebuilding the high school in 25 years.
Alternatively, a favorite “NO” scenario involves defeating the current bond and then hoping the School Board comes back with a new plan. A favorite is to build a fourth elementary school and a new middle school now, then rebuild the other three elementary schools in 10 years. Compared to the current bond, this NO concept would save the owner of a $1 million home $19/month for the next 10 years.
But we don’t get much in return for these small savings. What we will get is: 1) a fight over where to site a fourth school, 2) increased operating costs of $450,000 per year that will lead to laying off six teachers, and 3) a divided community because only 25 percent of elementary students get to go to a state-of–the-art school (this last issue alone will make passing this “NO” plan nearly impossible.) And then in 10 years, the bill for the delayed three elementary schools comes due, but now the cost of rebuilding will be $127 million (and that’s if interest rates stay at today’s historic lows). And when it comes time to rebuild the high school in 25 years, we either have to delay another 10 years or double up our taxes. While voting no, in the hopes of saving $19/month may seem compelling in the short term, it is actually a shortsighted and expensive choice in the long term.
The answer is clear to me. Vote yes — it’s the best plan at the lowest total cost for the next 25 years.
This letter has appeared in the Mercer Island Reporter.