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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Letter from a Museum Supporter and concerned Shoreline School District Voter

Letter from a Museum Supporter and concerned Shoreline School District Voter
Virginia Paulsen, PhD

She's analyzed the issue from a taxpayers standpoint.

Hi Folks:

My absentee mail -in ballot for the Feb 9th election arrived earlier this week. I read each measure very carefully. The wording for the school bond gives considerable discretion to the Shoreline School Board - current and future - about what this bond measure intends to accomplish with our tax dollars. And what it does not.

1. It is not clear whether the Shoreline School Board intends to modernize or to replace the high schools. There is a substantial difference between modernization and replacement.

The former means I assume - (just as you may be tempted to assume) - that it means repair and renovation of the buildings that comprise each of the two Shoreline High Schools, Shorewood and Shorecrest. The actual intent or aim of modernization is not clear. It could mean anything from gutting each and all of the buildings, to such repairs and upgrades that are in need of that such as plumbing, electrical work, earthquake retrofit, etc.

What is meant by replacement is also not clear. Replace both high schools? Replace one or two of the buildings on each school site? Replace any and all school buildings on each site? What architectural designs does the Shoreline School Board have in mind if and when they - and they alone - if they do decide on replacement?

Do any or all of these buildings need replacement, or is this a make work project that will benefits architects, engineers, contractors, etc.? Will these new buildings enhance or in any way contribute to the learning capabilities of the high school students attending each of these two schools? (As a Sociologist I can tell you that the research on academic performance shows this has little to do with school buildings.)

The fact is that the school board will have total discretion - perhaps we might want to call it indiscretion - to make choices about repair, renovation, replacement after the vote but not before it. That is we do not know what we will be getting or what we are voting for.

2. This bond also authorizes the School Board to "acquire land such as is necessary for such modernization or replacement? What land does the Shoreline School Board have in mind? Why is such land necessary? What will such acquisition have on students' academic capabilities and enhancement?

Coupled with the fact that the Shoreline Historical Museum has been targeted by the Shoreline School Board for possible removal from its present historical site, suggests that the Board may have committed itself to a plan that is not specified in this bond measure. Keep in mind, please, that the Shoreline Historical Museum building was a school building, The Ronald School, built to last forever in 1912, and is now, with good maintenance, a fully functioning building, eminently suited to its current functions as a museum. It is situated on its orginal site. Removal of the Shoreline Historical Museum to a different sitre may not only be very expensive but damaging to the structural integrity of this building.

Do we voters want to give the Shoreline School Board this much power to make decisions with our money, decisoins that we may not have any post-facto say in the matter?

3. The final statement in this bond measure deserves very close scrutiny, since it calls for the possibility of the school board being able to "levy annual excess property taxes to pay fhe bonds". Such possiblility is in addition to the two levy mesures that are on the Feb 9th ballot., (Prop No 1) replacing the expiring levy for educational programs, and Prop 3 ( a capital levy for technology improvements and support.)

Prop 1 calls for an annual level of $2.48/1000 assessed value and $0.35/1000 assessed value for Prop. 3. The total estimated levied costs of the three measures, that includes the bond (Prop 2) is $5.29/1000 assessed value. Please take the time to (A) calculate what this means for your budget, given the current dismal economic climate, and (B) compare with 2009 school levy amount.

How much can the citizens of Shoreline afford at this time when houses are on the market daily (at least in the Ridgecrest area) and folks are silll losing jobs and their homes?

4. Finally, keep in mind that there is another levy for the King County Rural Library Project, which calls for $0.50/$1000 assessed property values in order to provide continuing funding for normal operations.

With the loss of income, jobs and the ability to pay for basic necessities folks are cramming into the libraries, some to keep warm and read at the same time but many others to use the computers and free printing services provided as a
means to find jobs and to apply for these. The Library levy is a basic and in my opinion necessary service - or rather set of services - that people daily - every hour the library is open - and is not very expensive.

So, the bottom line, is to read the ballot measures carefully, think even more carefully about the statements in each measure, and what these aim to accomplish, without our necessarily knowing what the Shoreline School Board actually has in mind with the three school measures, especially the Bond proposition. To my mind this is not a bond which I want to vote for in its wording or intent.

Gini Paulsen

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