Update: Jan 30, 2019: At a public meeting today at the Evergreen School District headquarters, County Assessor Peter vanNortwick clarified the financial impact of the proposed $77 million bond. The district materials implied the impact would be about $.09/$1000. An article in the Columbian said it would be over $4/$1000 of assessed value. Mr. vanNortwick spoke with the district Superintendent and confirmed the “true” projected cost to be $1.06/$1000 of assessed value. What does this mean regarding taxes? A $400,000 assessed value home would see and annual INCREASE of $424. A $500,000 home would see a $530 increase.
If you live in the Ridgefield School District you know (or will when your ballot shows up) that you are being asked to approve another capital bond. Two (2) years ago the voters approved a bond. So why are they now coming back and asking for another bond so soon?
We contacted the school district and asked a series of questions. We received a response from Paula McCoy (Executive Director of Business Services) which can be seen below. Here’s our take on her responses:
First here’a a link to the Press Release from the district: https://www.ridgefieldsd.org/article/76376?org=district
- Bond – They say that they have had unprecedented growth and need the new facilities. We went to the OSPI website and looked at the data: http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=44&reportLevel=District&yrs=2017-18&year=2017-18
- Bond – Student Headcount: May 2018 = 3027; May 2017 = 2825; May 2016 = 2509; May 2015 = 2374 and May 2014 = 2195. So we have 4 school years. 3027 – 2195 = +832 students
- They claim that they anticipate an additional 1,422 students through 2022. Given that they added 832 students over 4 school years = 208 students per year. So through 2022 that = 4 school years (if we don’t count this existing year) = +355 students per year. That would exceed the 4 year average by 170%. Given the slowing economy, higher mortgage rates and reduced average number of students per household that seems unlikely. Schools can only be built for existing demand and not future demand. When we see inflated numbers like these it raises questions.
How about the levy?
- They are asking for the maximum allowed $1.50/$1000 of assessed value. Here’s a link to their levy page for the last 3 year levy that is expiring: https://www.ridgefieldsd.org/o/district/page/levy–2
- They want you to focus on the “rate” rather than the taxes. Their previous rate was ~$2.62/$1000 which was one of the lowest rates in Clark County. Ridgefield has a larger business tax base than many other districts so the impact on homeowner taxes is reduced.
- Is Ridgefield coming out ahead when you factor in the increased State property tax support? Yes
- Hows much money does the district get from the State? Slightly over $12,000 per student
The projections for student growth are inflated. The levy rate is the max allowed and every district is asking for it.
Can you vote yes on one and no on the other? yes
Can you vote No on both? Yes
Here are the comments from Ms. McCoy:
We have a webpage that lists the 2019 Bond program information, including the tax rate impact. That webpage can be found at : http://ridgefieldwa.apptegy.us/o/district/page/2019-bond. The net impact of the additional 2019 bonds will be a projected increase in the tax rate of $.09/$1000 in 2020 when compared to the current 2018 tax rates. The reason for the small net impact is tied primarily to changes in state law which limit enrichment levies to $1.50/$1000. The 2018 tax rate for the current levy is $2.21. Starting in calendar year 2019, that will reduce to $1.50 and will remain at that level unless future changes are enacted by the State.
The 2019 bond represents phase III of a multi-phase capital facilities expansion driven off of anticipated growth. Our capital facilities advisory webpage (http://ridgefieldwa.apptegy.us/o/district/page/capital-facilities-advisory-committee) has information on the various phases, including the 2017 bond which was phase II. However, the 2019 bond includes a new K-4 campus on the east end of the district, an additional expansion at Ridgefield High School to add more general education classrooms, a renovation and upgrades to the career and technical education spaces at Ridgefield High School (woods, metals, fabrication labs), covered play at existing elementary schools, and HVAC system updates at existing elementary schools.
As to your question about projected interest rates, this information really isn’t available until we get close to the date we would sell bonds. However, we are estimating interest rates to be about .75 points higher in 2019, and 1.25 points higher in 2020 than the current rates. Our projected levy rate analysis uses this information to calculate the impact on property taxes.
To answer your question about why are we running another bond when we just passed one in 2017, I would refer you to our enrollment forecast (https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/117578/Enrollment_Forecast_2.17.pdf) and the enrollment reports which you have requested and are addressed below. We are in a period of unprecedented growth and we have consistently been one of the fastest growing districts in Washington. If you happen to drive around the area, you will be hard pressed to find any area that is not under some sort of construction currently. With all the new students, we are hard pressed to have adequate and appropriate facilities to carry out our statutory requirements. The State requires school districts pass local construction bonds in order to build required facilities. While the state does provide a form of funding called State Match, this only accounts for about 20% of the actual costs of construction the facilities. The rest falls on local tax payers, hence the need for bonds.
I would be happy to discuss this further with you if you would like to give me a call.
- The 2017 bond was issued for expansion of Ridgefield High School, including science, arts, and special education classrooms, a new 5-8 intermediate school which replaced the previous View Ridge Middle School and expanded classroom space to accommodate a significant increase in enrollment. The 2017 bond also included security enhancements to all campuses and a repurposing of the old View Ridge Middle School into a joint use community facility. The 2017 bond projects will wrapped up this upcoming summer with the opening of the new classroom pod at Ridgefield High School.
- All budget, financial and enrollment reporting information for each district is available on the Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions website at: http://www.k12.wa.us/SAFS/reports.asp.
Using the drop down menu, select Ridgefield School District, and you will see the budget, financial summary reports, enrollment, and levy information by year for each of the years you have requested. The information you are looking for can be found on the F-195 Budget for each school year. If you open the report, there is a summary report titled “Summary of General Fund Expenditures by Activity” embedded in the budget document. Using that report, if you look at Activities 62, 63 & 64 (2018-19 Budget), you can see a total of those three categories ($436,017 + 1,398,891 + 341,883 = $2,176,791) which comprise our resources used for maintenance of the district facilities. This report also gives you the percentage of the total budget for each of these activities. So using this same example, the total for these three activities is (1.06% + 3.39% + .83% = 5.28% of the total budget). Each of the budget reports also gives you a three year snapshot of activity for comparison purposes. If you have questions, please feel free to give me a call and I would be happy to help walk you through this information.
- District head count and FTE reports are available for each year on OSPI’s financial services page as well. A link to that page is referenced under question 3. The 1251 report is the full time equivalent enrollment. The 1251H is the head count report. Enrollment information is available for the current 2018-19 school year for September through November. All other years requested are included under each corresponding year. Please feel free to give me a call if you have difficulty reading the information.
I hope we have addressed your questions and again, I would be happy to discuss any of this information further with you if you have questions. I am available by phone today until 1pm, and again next week. Thanks