The following is written by Edward Hechter:
As a business owner and as a member of the recent Enumclaw Economic Development Task Force, I have examined the proposed bond for the new Enumclaw High School and Black Diamond Elementary School and have come to the conclusion that this bond makes good economic sense for Enumclaw.
Many of us, this writer included, have a natural reluctance to bond and tax measures on the ballot, but I have come to the conclusion this is one we need to pass to ensure the economic vitality of Enumclaw and its families.
The Enumclaw School District has a shortage of classroom space and the problem is going to get worse. When you compound that problem with aging facilities that have higher operating and maintenance costs, the timing of this bond appears logical.
There are four things about the way the bond is structured that I believe are important for us to understand. First, the bond keeps our taxes flat. I think the Enumclaw School Board deserves credit for striving to be such good stewards of our money by not adding additional taxes to build these new structures. They have waited until prior bond-funded capital projects have been fully paid for before bringing a new project before the voters.
Second, the new facilities funded by this bond will reduce the district’s longer-term operating costs by reducing maintenance costs, energy costs and other operating costs that show up in the district’s budget. This will allow the district to do more with its operating budget, reducing the need for tax increases associated with operations. Anyone who has owned or maintained an older home or building can understand how these costs add up and increase over time.
Thirdly, current low interest rates make the timing of this bond an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up. This is an opportunity to save money for all taxpayers. These low interest rates make timing of this bond offering a good investment for our residents. A delay runs the risk of having higher interest rates which can cost the community millions, or even tens of millions, of dollars.
Finally, the bond is being presented at the exact right time to account for the shift in demographic patterns that are going to impact both Black Diamond and the high school. After years of declining enrollment, the district is in a situation where enrollment is going to start increasing. Expansion using portables and other structures is much more expensive to the district over time. The district was cautious during the period of declining enrollment and now is presenting a logical way to invest in the needed buildings to support the enrollment trends we will see over the coming years.
When you consider how this bond can benefit the community outside of purely educational terms, the new buildings will make Enumclaw more competitive regionally. The Enumclaw Economic Development Task Force identified a challenge that local companies face when recruiting professionals with families to come work and live in Enumclaw. When recruits visit some of our aging school buildings, they see aged schools with maintenance problems, peeling paint and failing exteriors. They see portable buildings.
They see open campuses without modern safety access controls. Many of them make (the wrong) assumption that the schools are not very good. The reality is that our district’s test scores, educators and programs are great, but the facilities are not even close to the types of facilities other nearby districts have. It may not be rational, but I have witnessed this first-hand many times in discussions with people contemplating a relocation to Enumclaw – these people just cannot envision their children attending these schools based only on the condition of the buildings.
Passing the bond makes good economic sense because of how the new facilities will help our children achieve economic success and bring that back to Enumclaw. These kids will compete for jobs in a global marketplace. The Puget Sound is fortunate to have better than average career prospects for students with Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills. Having our local students be prepared to enter this work force has the benefit of creating multi-generational families who are able to call Enumclaw home, graduating from our local high school, obtaining local higher education in STEM skills, and then working in the region while maintaining their Enumclaw roots.
As a business owner, as a member of the Economic Development Task Force, as a parent, and as a taxpayer, this bond makes good economic sense. I encourage everyone in the community to support this much needed investment in the future of our community.
Edward Hechter is President of Palama Place, Inc., a consulting services company for High Tech companies. An Enumclaw resident for more than 25 years, Edward was a member of the Enumclaw Economic Development Task Force in 2012 and 2013, and has been an active volunteer in a variety of youth oriented academic and outdoor programs.