Letter | School Board is misleading public on taxes for bond
March 25, 2012 · Updated 1:07 PM
The School Board is Misleading Public
I just received the Mercer Island School District news in the mail yesterday and was surprised at the way the bond cost was presented. On the back page the School Board states "The annual cost of this bond will be an additional $700 per $1 million of assessed value,...". However, the actual cost per million of assessed value is around $1,580 per year for 20 years. This is not hard to figure out using a 2.8% loan rate on a $196,275,000 bond, the annual payments come out to $12,827,886. The most recent total property value for the City of Mercer Island is roughly $8.115 Billion. Dividing the annual payment by the total property value provides the ratio of 0.00158 which you can multiply times your house valuation to determine your share of the bond. Therefore, a million dollar house will pay $1,580 per year.
Previously, the cost of the bond was presented a little differently in that it was indicated homeowners would see an increase of $700 if the bond passes. Although this is technically correct, it is still misleading since you have to subtract the payment on the school bond expiring in 2015 from the cost of the new bond. In other words, in 2015 when the school bond expires, instead of seeing a decrease in your taxes, you will then start paying $1,580 for the new bond, a net increase of $700.
The approach taken to inform the public with disclosure that is less than fully open and honest makes me question other information being disseminated. As an example, on the same School Board newsletter there is a graph showing the tax rates for King County School Districts where Mercer Island is shown as having the second to lowest tax rate. However, if you compare what the average homeowner would pay in Auburn, with a median home value of $379,381(from the Auburn website) you can see they pay a little over $2,300 per year, or $100 less than Mercer Island. Again, the information being presented is not wrong, it is just not the whole story and therefore misleading.
Presenting the information with a spin to "sell" the bond to voters makes me suspicious of other numbers being proposed such as the cost to operate a fourth school and the real cost of rebuilding the four schools. This may be a case where we have to vote for the bond to find out what is actually in it.