This page is a compilation of the reasons to consider voting No/AGAINST the Battle Ground School Bond in April 2018. We will share specific reasons supported by data and information. Each person must decide for themselves how to vote. A large turnout helps the No’s and a small turnout helps the Yes’
On Wednesday February 21st 2018 the Battle Ground School Board Directors met from 4:30 to 5:30pm in an emergency session at Lewisville in Room C26. Notice of the meeting was put on the district website on Tuesday the 20th (approximately 24 hours prior). There was no notice in the newspaper. No notice on the Battle Ground School District Facebook Page. No email to parents of students notifying them of the meeting. We found the notice and shared it on the two Battle Ground Facebook Groups.
Why the urgent need for a meeting? A bond or levy can be placed before the voters a maximum of 2x per calendar year. This bond originally went to the voters in November 2016 where it failed (getting ~55% yes vs. the 60% required). The voter turnout was ~79%. In November 2017 the Board decided to put the bond on a special ballot for Feb 13, 2018 at a cost estimated to be $80-$85,000. It failed getting ~58.6% of the votes cast. The voter turnout was ~36%. There are three dates in 2018 that the bond could yet be sent back to the voters: April 24th; August and November. To get the ballot out in April the Board is required to submit the documents to the Elections Dept no later than February 23rd at 5pm.
Update: The cost to put the bond back on the ballot in April is estimated, by the Clark County Elections Dept., to cost the district between $132-$145,000. If you combine the Nov 16, 2016; Feb 14, 2018 and Apriul 24, 2108 bond costs together it’s likely in the range of $250,000…money which could have been spent on…children.
At the school board meeting they considered only one (1) date: April 24th. They considered two bond measures: The EXACT same bond and Option #2 which would have been ~$9 million less because they would use impact fees in place of some bond money. They never considered a smaller bond. They didn’t consider waiting until later in the year. Why? They said they believed they had “momentum”. The PAC Citizens for Better Schools Battle Ground has spent ten’s of thousands of dollars. They have signs and don’t want to waste them. They were concerned about needing to raise more money. Members of the PAC made it clear that they don’t care about the No voters because they can’t convert them. They believe they can get more yes voters.
The School Board meeting agenda did not show public input…but they did ask. The meeting was a sham pure and simple. They already knew what their positions were and what they wanted. They are required to have a public meeting and they did that. Attendance was worthless and had no value. They made a “show” of listening. There was no interest in learning what the public would support. There was no intent to compromise. Oh…there were about 12 people in the room. Only 1 spoke against putting the bond back out unchanged in April.
So what are the issues/concerns that No voters in the first two losses took into account?
- The bond is bloated
- Lack of maintenance and diversion of funds has accelerated facilities failure. Levy money has been spent on more personnel instead of facilities.
- Taxes (due to the increase State school property tax) have gone through the roof and People can’t afford the taxes
- The student growth they claim is a driver is wrong
- The “new” levy rate planned for 2019 at $1.50/$1000 of assessed value is already under assault and is being considered to increase (target: $2.31/$1000). (This would raise taxes even more)
New proposed “carbon tax” would raise gasoline taxes and New proposed “capital gains” tax would drain more money.County and City taxes are…UP. Update: The legislature closed out their session on Thursday March 8th and neither of these passed. However, they are slated to be reintroduced in the Fall so stay vigilant. The legislature passed a 1 time reduction of property taxes in 2019 of an estimated $0.33/$1000 of assessed value. Taxes go back up in 2020. See our calculator below under “Taxes”.
- The public has credibility issues with the School Board. Too many half-truths and deceptions based on past actions.
- Safety & Security
Here is the No/Con Statement for the Ballot: April 2018 No Position Battle Ground School Bond
Let’s define the differences between Bond’s and Levy’s:
Bond – A fixed amount of money to be used for “capital” improvements. Generally this is buildings and associated infrastructure. Sometimes shorter term life items are included. The money is generally borrowed for 21 years at a negotiated interest rate based on the school districts rating.
Levy – Generally called Maintenance and Operations Levy. It’s money to maintain facilities and take care of major assets (buildings, roofs, equipment, etc.). The money can also be used to hire additional personnel beyond what the state pays for. In SWW about 90% of the money is used for more people and only about 10% for Maintenance, Operations and Asset Preservation.
Bloated Bond (Some might say it’s full of pork)
- Let’s look at the list of projects/items they propose to use the money on. We suggest you look at these and decide whether it is: Needed or Nice to Have or Not Needed. This is how it came out when we looked at it:
- Feb132018_Bond_Need_Nice_NotNeeded Table
- What will you see when you open the file? Glenwood/Laurin and Pleasant Valley make sense to replace and/or refurbish. The new campus makes no sense. ~$10 million should come out of maintenance and operations. Some of the other work is Nice but may or may not be necessary…you judge
- Could the bond be smaller and if so by how much? But…that’s irrelevant. The Board has decided it’s all or nothing. What the public wants or thinks is irrelevant
- A local BGSD taxpayer (Ben) looked at the list of projects in the bond and the costs. After scratching his head about numbers that didn’t seem to add up he came up with a list of questions that he sent to the BG District Administration. Administration answsered and Ben asked for some clarifications. In the following documents you can see the complete original email exchange as well as Ben’s observations and thoughts. It’s worth your time to read:
- Bond vs. FIT costs – This is the email questions/responses/analysis: BGSD FIT vs Bond Data and Questions Feb_Mar_2018_Ben
- Ben’s observations and thought summary (he distills the document): Bens observation summary BGSD bond vs FIT_Final
Maintenance & Operations Fund use failures
- We asked the district to provide the past 15 years of maintenance and operations funds as well as “asset preservation” to see how much money was being spent and whether it was enough to keep the facilities from falling apart. We were told that ~14 years ago the “asset preservation” funding was in excess of $2 million/year. Tracking that forward, using an annual 2% inflation rate, it would need to be ~$2.6 million/year in 2017/2018. What did we find?
- First, the district could only go back to 2007. The records we got show us the following:
- BGSD Asset Preservation Report_Analysis 2007-2017 Jan 2018
- What do you see? 2004 was the baseline at ~$2 million/year. In 2007 it was: $247,000. It hung at the $750-$800,000/yr for the next 4 years. It crept back to $1mm/yr for a couple of years and then up to $1.5mm/year for the past 4 years.
- Look at the details and ask yourself whether using the money for maintenance would have extended the life of the facilities
- Second, the money NOT used for M&O was used to hire more personnel instead. When we asked for evidence that the extra people resulted in a benefit we were told there was no evidence. So, if some of the money spent on extra people had been spent on facilities would we be in the same boat we are now?
- Update: March 19th – At the school board meeting on March 12th the Board approved replacement of the artifical turf at the BGHS. I sent a letter which you can read here: BGSD Stadium Turf Testimony March 12 2018
- The turf lasted 13 years – kudo’s to the maintenance crew
- Replacing makes sense…if it’s paid out of the levy money and not the bond..why?
- They said the turf replacement has been on their 5 year plan…but they didn’t set any money aside each of the last 5 years so they approved financing it. If they had set aside $100,000 each year for 5 years they would have been able to pay the bill
- The life of turf is 6-12 years. Borrowing money for 21 years makes no sense. It will be replaced 2-3x in that 21 years
- They plan to pay for the turf out of the bond if it passes (they voted yes)
- The bond promotion has centered around a couple of statements from the district:
- The tax rate will drop in 2019
- If we simply accept their charts they say that the “rate” will drop 2 cents in 2019. On a $350,000 assessed value home you would save….$7.
- In 2016/17 the district got a new 4 year levy approved. Year #1 was a 16% increase over the prior year. Each of the remaining 3 years is set to go up 5% per year.
- The new State School Property Tax changes require the levy rate to drop to a maximum of $1.50/$1000 of assessed value starting in 2019/2020. However, the State Superintendent of Schools (Chris Reykdal) has already asked the Legislature to increase it to ~$2.31/$1000. If that happens the “rate” would increase by 54%. So a home assessed at $350,000 would see the levy tax go from $525 to $808.
- Your taxes won’t go up starting in 2019
- If the assessed value goes up each year then the taxes go up even if the rate stays the same.
- In Clark County the School Property Tax has gone from $1.98/$1000 to $2.89/$1000
- A $350,000 assessed value home has seen the school tax increase from $693 to $1011 (a 45.9% increase)
- The tax rate will drop in 2019
- Add on increases in the County Property Taxes; City Taxes; Fire District Taxes.
- If the Legislature adds a new carbon tax its projected to add 9 to 30 cents per gallon. A new Capital Gains Tax would drain more money as well
- The attempt is to divert attention from actual taxes to talk about rates. In the end taxes go higher and higher. What can you afford?
- Tax impacts are different depending on where you are in the County. Here are some stories from local news sources you may to to read to see how you are impacted
- Columbian – http://www.columbian.com/news/2018/feb/14/clark-county-assessor-most-will-see-higher-property-tax-bill/
- ClarkCountyToday.com – (There is an artricle embedded in the main article you may want to read as well) http://www.clarkcountytoday.com/opinion/whos-responsible-for-property-tax-increases/
- What will the tax impact be in 2019 and 2020? The BGSD website says tax rates will go down and implies taxes will decline. To complicate the issue the legislature is giving a 1 time reducation of school property taxes of $0.33/$1000 of assessed value in 2019. In 2020 the taxes go back up. So, we created a spreadsheet that mimic’s a tax statement from the Clark County Assessor’s Office for a house in un-incorporated Clark County. Here is that spreadsheet: BGSD Tax Projections 2019-2020 vs 2018_v2
- What does it show? (These are estimates and not expected to be exact)
- You can change the 2018 assessed value; the annual assessed value increase and the local levy
- We used a media home price of $350,000 for 2018
- We used an annual assessed value increase of 10%. Why 10%? The last 3 years have been ~10%/year and 2018 is running at 10.6% through Feb/Mar
- 2019 – Taxes do down by $196
- 2020 – Taxes go UP by $420
- What does it show? (These are estimates and not expected to be exact)
- A cornerstone of the “pitch” has been the claim that new housing construction has led and will lead to lots of new students and overcrowding. We’ve reviewed the data and disagree with that “pitch”. Here’s the data for your consideration:
- 2015-2017 BGSD Residential Permits This contains the last 3 years of permit data for Clark County and the City of Battle Ground. Multiply the number of permits x .45 (the historical average number of students per household) and you see how many students new construction should add
- Now, let’s look at the ACTUAL number of students reported by the school district to the State:
- The Board of Directors paid a consultant to produce a report looking at the next ten (10) years of student enrollment. This consultant has done a report for Evergreen and Vancouver
- Here’s the report: BGSD Enrollment Forecast Report (1-30-18)_Rylander_Notes My comments and questions are inside the document (click on the little bubbles or move your mouse over the bubbles to read)
- Here’s a series of questions I sent the consultant with their responses: BGSD Student Enrollment 10 Yr Forecast Memo from Ed Hovee Feb 7 2018 – Richard Rylander Response
- What are the key takeaways?
- The next 3-5 years will see little increase in the number of total students
- Battle Ground High School will see declines
- What growth does occur will be on the southern end
- The actual # of students per household is actually less than then historic .45 at .38
- Daybreak; Tukes and Maple Grove are declining and have room so boundary shifts can help balance the loads
- The net? Slow growth IF the economy continues. We are at year 10 with a normal up cycle of 8 years. If the economy retracts the number of residential units will decline as will the number of students. The population growth projections are suspect and only time will tell. That’s what led me to saying the need for a new primary/middle school in the bond isn’t necessary for at least 10 years.
- Finally, you can go to the OSPI website and look at the BGSD student population by year and by school….IF….you want to see the real numbers and not the hype. Choose say 2013-14 and then compare it to 2016-17: http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=7069&reportLevel=School&yrs=2013-14&year=2013-14
- Here’s another look at the past 5 years of enrollment data (headcount) as reported by the BGSD to OSPI
- Update: April 8, 2018
- I contaced the City of Battle Ground and Clark County Public Works and asked for an update on the number of residential building permits for 2014 thru March 2018. Each provided the latest update. I asked for a breakdown of single family and multi-family by year.
- Then I put the data into a table and applied different student student rates. Historical and based on the Hovee Report. What do we see?
- Using the Hovee Report we should have had ~1100 new students during the 3 years 2015-2017
- Using the BGSD reported data to OSPI for the 3 years 2015-2017 we have LOST 202 students
- In the 2015 to 2017 time frame (4+ years) there have been 3,667 total family unit permits issued
- Net? Instead of student population for the district rising by ~1100 students from 3,667 residentail units we have seen a loss of 202 students
- With the change in State School Property Tax rate going up the levy maximum is being reduce to $1.50/$1000 of assessed value…however…
- The old levy system was a fixed amount no matter what the value of your home.
- The “new” levy is now tied to assessed value. So, if values go up your taxes now go up. This is a huge change from the past.
- The levy money will only be able to be used for something called “Enrichment”. That does NOT mean to pay for extra personnel. Each district must create their plan and submit it to the State Superintendent’s Office for review and approval. What is the definition of “Enrichment”? Click this link to read about it: http://billsblog-wasa.weebly.com/blog-entries/enrichment-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder
- But wait…the State Superintendent has decided that $1.50 may not be enough. He’s asked the Legislature to consider raising it to $2.31/$1000 (a 54% increase) AND IT ISN’T EVEN IN PLACE YET!!! When will we know whether this kicks in? Sometime later this year (after the April 24th bond election). If it does get approved then the districts claim that your taxes would go down…would be false. So, until we know what happens (if anything) it seems ludicrous to approve a bond.
Carbon tax? If so it will increase gasoline taxes 9 center per gallon rising to 30 cents per gallon. If that happens it will likely hurt the economy and increase the costs of everything and increase inflation Capital gains tax? Depending on who you are this may or may not have a direct impact. If it does then more money out the window
- City and County Property taxes are going up the max allowed of 1% per year
- Assessed value increase bring higher taxes with them…even if the tax rate stays the same
- People have long memories. There are some examples of things that stick in people’s craw’s and cause them to question the integrity or honesty or transparency of the district and School Board. Here are a few:
- About 4 years ago the school board decided to fire the Superintendent. They told the public they were NOT taking any action. It was done secretly and they paid the ex-Superintendent $400,000 to leave. They told the public the weren’t paying her but did. Why pay? Turns out that the Board never did performance reviews as required by law and thus had nothing to prove there were issues. Three (3) of the current five (5) Board Directors were involved in that fiasco. Some people remember.
- In the last Levy election there were several statements and claims that were made that were either incorrect or misleading. I submitted details and asked for action. Nothing happened…until…the Clark County Assessor got involved and made they make some changes in their claims
- The bond election efforts have contained statements and claims that have not been accurate and some consider misleading.
- The emphasis on growth projections that can’t be substantiated and press releases citing the highest consultant numbers when the basic may still be high…
- 2018 BGEA Teachers Contract
- Take the time to read about the process we had to go through to get a summary of the new contract. Trust? Transparency?
- Using the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to help pass the bond?
- The link will open the letter I wrote to the Board and Superintendent. It also contains the full email that was sent to parents. Judge for yourself if they attempted to use the shooting to garner support for the bond.
- Read the 3rd and 4th paragraphs Link: BGSD Email to parents regarding florida shooting and safety Mar32018-text
- The BGSD Superintendent sent out an email to all parents (with children in school) on March 2nd titled: School security is top of mind.
- The entire email can be seen in this link: BGSD Email to parents regarding florida shooting and safety Mar32018-text
- The issue with the email is seen in the the 3rd paragraph. They appear to be attempting to use the shooting to promote the bond passage:
- Since the Parkland shooting, we have received many comments, questions and concerns about safety and security. Some of it is likely because our bond did not pass last month. It fell short of the required 60 percent supermajority by a couple hundred votes. The bond would have replaced our four oldest primary and middle schools that lack modern security features, and would have provided for improvements such as internal classroom door locks and card-controlled entrances at our other schools.
- Safety can be handled with personnel and reasonable physical changes as/if necessary
- Following the district email to parents talking about security and the bond we sent a list of questions to the BGSD Superintendent. He responded within 24 hours. The questions and his reponses are in this link: BGSD Safety_Security_Qs_Mar_13_2018_MarkRoss_Responses_3142018_plus_followup Qs What are the highlights?
- There are no State or OSPI standards for security for public schools – so if a district says they need to improve that’s their judgement
- There is no State funding for safety/security. Money comes out of the Levy funds…IF…the district chooses
- There is no requirement that any district conduct or have a study/assessment of their security
In the end…most people want to make sure children are safe and well cared for. We may differ in our estimates of what is needed vs not needed or nice to have. Some want the School Board to be held accountable for their past decisions while others want to leave the past in the past. About 62% of the households in the BGSD don’t have any children. A large percent are on fixed incomes and are hard hit by the tax increases. When you vote yes or no do so using facts and data first and emotion 2nd.