Yes on Measure A: Pros outweigh the cons
I have spent considerable time studying Measure A, reading through the proposal and speaking with Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent James Tarwater on multiple occasions. Here is my assessment.
Some elements of this proposal are questionable. Topping the list is the $87 million figure. I understand the district felt it needed $150 million to complete every desired project. They then hired pollsters to determine the maximum amount the public might support and came up with the figure of $87 million. I think this measure would easily pass if the district requested $20 million to $30 million, with an understanding that they would come back for a second bond in four or five years. If all expectations were met on the first bond (i.e., promises kept), the second bond also would pass easily.
Another important fact voters need to understand is the cost of the bonds: $87 million is only the principal amount. To pay back the bonds over 35 years will equate to a payment of around $400,000 per month for 35 years at 4 percent interest, or about $170 million in total bond costs. (These are my estimates, not official numbers.)
The district then shows $5 million in interest earned from the bonds. Bonds cost money, they don’t make money. That’s like taking out a second mortgage on your home at 6 percent, putting it in the bank at a return of 3 percent and counting that as positive income.
Finally, the argument that this is “free money” to renters is simply wrong. Landlords are not in the business of charity; they need to make profits. Any fees that cut into their bottom line will be reflected in higher rents. It’s akin to claiming higher gas prices don’t affect the cost of shipping; basic economics tell you different.
The opponents of Measure A also have made some misjudgments. The biggest is claiming this bond will do nothing for teacher’s salaries. True, these funds can’t be used directly for salaries. However, monies the district doesn’t spend on maintenance of the infrastructure can be redistributed. These monies can be shifted to make our teachers’ pay competitive.
Also, the claim that there is not a prioritized list of projects is wrong. The district has specified distinct projects that will be done, and a wish list of additional projects should projects come in at or under budget.
Finally, there is the suggestion that infrastructure improvements do not improve our children’s education. I believe that’s wrong. A sense of place and pride would go a long way to improving our kids’ chance of success in school.
After carefully weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to support Measure A. The biggest reason is Superintendent Tarwater himself. Here is a man who isn’t motivated by political office or impressing the school board. His sole motivation is to make a difference for our community and our kids. He has a track record of getting things done, and I believe he will do so with this bond measure.
Our community should support Measure A, then demand accountability from our school board to see that promises made are promises kept. A successful project here could do a great deal toward healing the cynicism our community has developed. However, if this goes the way of Measure S, with a long list of excuses instead of completed projects, the damage may be irreversible.
– Pat Martin is a physician whose family has been in South Lake Tahoe for four generations.