The Longview School District is once again asking voters to pass an expensive bond measure. This time the price tag is $119 million, down slightly from the $121.6 million bond voters rejected in 2017.
Just the idea of an increase in property taxes rankles. And asking voters in a community where too many are already struggling financially is no easy task. But we think this bond measure should be passed.
Before putting the bond out to vote, the school district took the important — and much-needed — step of reaching out to the community about the school district’s needs.
The district held 14 community forums and conducted a poll in hopes of developing a bond plan that voters could get behind. More importantly, they listened to the answers.
In the end the district came back with a proposal that’s truly different and better. Northlake and Mint Valley would be replaced with two new 540-student elementary schools. Replacing Olympic Elementary has been removed.
Under the proposal, $8.4 million would go to the two high schools to improve and expand welding, construction technology, culinary arts and science, technology, engineering and math. We’re glad to see programs for students not necessarily bound for college, as well as STEM programs. Longview Memorial Stadium would get a $7 million facelift. Its omission in the 2017 bond plan was cited as one of the major reasons for its election failure.
Perhaps most importantly, the new bond would fund upgrades at every school.
“This touches every school in the district,” Superintendent Dan Zorn told the editorial board.
Lastly, infrastructure requires upkeep. When you build a school, that school will eventually need repairs, whether it’s a new HVAC system, roof or something else. If we keep putting off those repairs, upgrades and improvements, they’re only going to be more expensive down the road.
We have one caveat, though: School district officials pointed out that it’s been nearly 18 years since the Longview School District passed a new bond (the last time was in 2001). If this year’s bond measure passes, we expect the district won’t come back to voters for another bond measure for, at least, several years.
George Raiter for Port of Longview commissioner
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In many ways, incumbent Port of Longview commissioner Alan Erickson and former Longview city councilman and former Cowlitz County commissioner George Raiter are alike.
Both are actively involved in the community; both see economic development as the key to solving many of Cowlitz County’s woes; and both have similar priorities for the port. However, we believe Raiter’s experience in working with city, county and state government will give a much-needed boost to the port.
For the past few years, the Port of Longview has continued to limp along, while we’ve seen the Port of Kalama and the Port of Woodland bring in new projects, new jobs and new revenue.
While little of that can be laid directly at Erickson’s feet, as he was appointed to his seat about a year ago, we believe Raiter’s experience gives him the edge.
One area the two candidates differ is on the port’s existing tax levy.
The candidates agree that the port should consider decreasing its property tax levy, which is 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $65 annually on a $250,000 home.
Erickson said he wants to “minimize taxes,” instead of doing away with the levy completely, as the tax helps pay for facility improvements, including updates to the railroad, berths or warehouses.
Raiter, on the other hand, wants to eliminate the tax and find other was to offset that revenue.
“Staff can tighten up. You can work without someone who used to be there if you can find a way to combine (job duties). The higher you are in the organization, the more they get paid, the more likely you are to be able to combine functions,” Raiter told the board.
We think this is an example of what Raiter has brought to the table for local government for many years, and the port could use his experience.