The original story was posted on RGJ and can be viewed at this link.
The objections to the WC-1 ballot question in letters to the editor have been abundant and reminiscent of objections that have arisen in ballot question campaigns since 1996:
1996: Washoe County voters rejected a ballot question to authorize the Washoe County School District to bond for $196 million ($301 million in 2016 dollars), the first time in Washoe County’s history that voters defeated a school bond ballot question.
1998: After a passionate “Yes Yes for Kids” campaign, Washoe County voters approved a two-part question authorizing the Washoe County School District to bond for $178 million ($263 million in 2016 dollars) with a property tax increase of approximately 4 cents/$100 valuation.
2002: Washoe County voters approved a 10-year “rollover” authorization for the district to bond $309 million ($414 million in 2016 dollars) with no tax increase.
2008: Washoe County voters rejected a six-year authorization for the district to bond $393 million ($440 million in 2016 dollars) through a quarter-cent increase in the county sales tax and half-cent increase per $1 valuation in vehicle tax (the government services tax).
2013: The Washoe County Commission rejected a legislatively authorized proposal to increase the county sales tax by one-quarter cent and the real property tax by 5 cents/$100 valuation without sunset to authorize the district to fund approximately $20 million per year for essential capital repairs or $200 million over 10 years.
In total since 1996, Washoe County voters or elected bodies have approved $677 million in today’s dollars and denied approximately $941 million, all for WCSD capital projects. Aside from the many side issues, there are two principal ways to view this: a) the voters have rightly proven that the district could get by without $941 million, or b) WCSD is in a facility crisis and WC-1 is intended to pull the district out of a 20-year school facility deficit due to a fundamentally inadequate funding mechanism.
For the 20 years I have been studying WCSD’s capital projects funding, I categorically agree we are in a crisis for three reasons: deferred maintenance has been piling up, student enrollment today exceeds facility capacity at 20 percent of our schools, and the existing funding mechanism is fundamentally inadequate.
Of greater concern to me, however, is the singular objection to WC-1 that seems to be its crowning fatal blow: no sunset, i.e., these taxes continue forever. The perception seems to be that if we were to approve this $781 million for the next nine years, “game over!” Here’s one reason it’s “not over”: the bonds issued will be 20-year bonds; these taxes will service this debt for 20 years beyond each issue date.
But here’s the real reason this WC-1 funding mechanism cannot sunset: Our commitment to provide public education cannot sunset because the flow of children entering kindergarten school facilities and graduating from WCSD high school facilities does not sunset!
Please join me in acknowledging that our commitment to public education does not sunset. Vote Yes on WC-1.
Daryl Drake is Washoe County resident, businessman and regional and state education advocate for many years.