Wa-Hi bond is pretty good bargain


Walla Walla Public Schools has been my employment home for more than 20 years, the last five as chief financial officer. In my position, I manage our budget, which runs in excess of $60 million annually.

Bonds, taxes and funding for school district facilities are complicated issues and I hope I can answer some of the questions floating around our community regarding the bond election on Feb. 12 to remodel Walla Walla High School.

First, please remember that all numbers mentioned are estimates. Exact tax impacts are dependent on assessed value of property within the School District. Exact construction costs are dependent on the economy and cost of materials.

The total cost of this project is estimated to be $69.6 million. If the voters approve the construction project, local taxpayers will pay $48 million over 20 years. Taxpayers throughout Washington state will pay $21.6 million (about one-third of the project) through state matching funds. All state matching dollars received from the state will be used to pay for the Wa-Hi remodel project. If there is any money left over after the Wa-Hi remodel project, the funds will be used to reduce the debt ($48 million) that the local taxpayers are being asked to assume.

Current low bond rates and construction costs have created an excellent bidding environment. The Edison Elementary project provided work for 10 local contractors. The recently passed College Place bond is estimated to cost College Place taxpayers an additional $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation — I think an additional 68 cents per $1,000 is a pretty good bargain.

There are many good reasons to vote in favor of the Wa-Hi renovation — I hope I’ve added to them.

Pat Johnston

Walla Walla



barracuda says...

FYI... We already have a school bond that we are paying for on TOP of the .68 per $1000.... CP's school board is not forcing citizens to pay for two school upgrades at the same time.

Posted 22 January 2013, 7:21 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

College Place is a MUCH smaller district with fewer buildings, so of course they will have fewer bonds than we will...but they are paying MUCH more than we are. Also, school boards don't force anyone to pay anything. Citizens choose whether or not to improve their schools.

Posted 22 January 2013, 7:38 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Wow.... there was a wait time of 16 minutes before your attempt to set me straight...

Posted 22 January 2013, 10:51 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

My goal is to keep it under 10 minutes, barracuda, but I missed it this time.

Posted 23 January 2013, 9:21 a.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...


Posted 23 January 2013, 4:23 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

fatherof5 - your as wishy-washy as a politician - always an excuse or evasive answer as usual.

Posted 23 January 2013, 6:38 a.m. Suggest removal

jace12 says...

FYI...College Place did have a previous Bond and was paid off by 2012. They then ran the New High School/New Davis Bond.

Posted 23 January 2013, 12:38 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Thats what I was thinking too. Not both at the same time...

Posted 23 January 2013, 4:24 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

I have another question for fatherof5 - will the contractors be union or non-union? If it's non-union you can cut the cost by a third.

Posted 23 January 2013, 6:25 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

I have no idea, namvet. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you...." I, for one, favor paying a fair wage for a good day's work. Do you want to pay these guys minimum wage? Do you want skilled labor? You usually get what you pay for.

Seriously, though, the contractors who bid on the job will have to worry about their labor costs, and figure that into their bids. I would imagine we would take whatever bid makes the most sense. If it would make you happy, though, you could put in a request that the workers really get screwed.

Posted 23 January 2013, 7:29 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

College Place isn't really a good example for you hold up for comparison. Once their high school is built, they will have four schools with 1,100 students and one 20-year bond at a cost of $2.70 per $1,000 property value.

By contrast, if the Wa-Hi bond passes, Walla Walla will have 10 schools and over 6,000 students and two bonds for a rate of $1.95 for five years, then dropping to one bond and a rate of $1.15 for 15 years. That's nearly five times the number of students, more than twice the number of schools, and less than 1/3 the tax rate for the majority of the payment period.

That's not evasive, namvet. Those are the facts. In a district our size, you can't run just one bond every ten years, which is what it sounds like some of you would like. Do the math. It would take 100 years to get to the 10th school. It's been 50 years already for Wa-Hi. It's time.

Posted 23 January 2013, 6:37 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

You are joking - union labor is more efficient than non-union labor. If you take away the union dues the laborers go home with almost the same amount as the non-union and the quality of work would be the same. Just because you have a non-union contractor does not mean that they work for minimum wage. Obviously you are a big union man and I pity you as the unions are going by the wayside with membership dropping severely. Listening to union officials is like watching a thug movie!

Posted 24 January 2013, 6:25 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

I just said I believe in paying a fair wage for a good day's work. You are making all of the assumptions from there. Regardless, the district will accept the contract that makes the most sense, presumably from a variety of competitive bids.

Question for you, namvet: we know that you don't want to pay for a Wa-Hi remodel "now" - but surely you believe Wa-Hi can't go on without help forever. Which three parts of the remodel do you think have the most merit, even if you think the timing is wrong?

Posted 24 January 2013, 8:24 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

It's hard to get out of something that has been posted isn't it? You stated "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you". You then dovetailed into paying a fair wage for skilled labor! There is no assumption involved. Your indicating that utilizing a non-union contractor at a better rate would bring inferior work and unskilled labor. Remember the "do you want skilled labor" and "you get what you pay for". And then the hypocritical ending with "I could put in a request for workers to get screwed". Now your running ragged here and as far as remodeling either or all would not hurt anything to hold off until the economy perks up a little bit to let people get on there feet. You should probably stick to your scripted rehtoric.

Posted 24 January 2013, 6:11 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

We're talking past each other now. I didn't write anything similar to: "it would not hurt anything to hold off...." Read it again. I was just trying to paraphrase your position, which is that we should wait. And then I asked you what parts of the bond you think have merit, even if YOU believe the timing is wrong. Just trying to see if you are able to see both sides fairly, even if you favor one side strongly.

Posted 24 January 2013, 10:31 p.m. Suggest removal

mtnthc says...

If the bond passes and you don't want to pay you can always move.

Posted 25 January 2013, 3:18 p.m. Suggest removal

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