School’s one-year levy needs to pass | Editorial

We support Orcas School’s levy on this November’s ballot, but we’re not happy about it.

We endorsed both of the previous school bonds, which both failed by a slim margin. At $35 million and then $27 million, the project was immense, but we felt the school had conducted a thorough study of the buildings and had a great plan in place for a new campus.

We feel that we have no choice but to support this new one-year, $900,000 levy. Because the school owes this money to Cashmere Bank, it must be paid back.

We were skeptical when the school – albeit reluctantly – took out a $900,000 loan to pay for a matching grant to make repairs to the elementary school this summer. It put the district and the community in a precarious position: pay back that money or the school is in serious financial trouble.

We understand it was a tough decision. The elementary building had nearly unlivable conditions – freezing rooms, plumbing that didn’t work – and the grant paid for half of what needed to be done. There was a time limit on the grant, so it needed to be used now or it would have been taken off the table.

However, in the amount of time it took the administration to settle on loan terms, the groundswell of community support surrounding the school might have been able to raise the needed money. After all, $100,000 had already been pledged to the project by generous islanders.

But the school board made its decision and now we’ve come to another election season. The levy terms are 28 cents per thousand of assessed property value. For a house valued at $500,000, that’s $140. It’s really not a lot of money.

Orcas elementary students are now able to learn in a warm, healthy environment, and as members of a community that cares about its youth, we need to pay back the loan so the school can continue to serve our young ones.

How we got to this point is disappointing, but to all those who voted “no” on the previous bond: a $900,000 one-year levy is a lot easier to swallow than a $35 million bond.


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