Should the Legislature change Washington State's Constitution and reduce the 60% voter approval required for passage of school bond measures to a 50% simple majority?
Our current school board members, the superintendent and the Lake Washington School District PTSA have endorsed a recommendation that the Legislature amend the Washington State Constitution that currently requires 60% voter approval to pass a bond measure and reduce the approval requirement to a 50% simple majority. The rationale is that the district and other districts in the state have had a difficult time passing bond measures so only requiring a 50% approval would make passage easier. Another argument is that a minority vote (40%) determines whether the bond measure passes or fails.
Bond measures are long-term financial commitments that allow school districts to issue debt for up to 20 years and that debt must be paid back with interest. Bonds approved today can leave future residents paying for school construction and capital improvements for years. Interest on bonds can cost nearly as much as the bonds themselves.
For a wealthy school district like ours, changing the state constitution provides an easy remedy to school funding issues. We have to consider that all 295 school districts in the state will be affected by this change. In less affluent districts, taxpayers that approve bond measures during robust economic times may have difficulty paying for the bonds as local economies contract or face unforeseen changes.
School districts can raise construction funds by passing 6-year levies that require only 50% voter approval and the same spending caps apply to levies and bonds. Levy funds are collected directly from taxpayers, not borrowed, so no money is wasted on interest. Six years is a short enough time frame that economic fluctuations can be reflected in planning and spending.
The Washington State Constitution was written over one hundred years ago and serves the interests and needs of our entire state. Changing it should not be taken lightly. I oppose changing the Washington Constitution and believe asking voters to approve levies for construction is a better choice.