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Letter: Realtors Urge 'Yes' Vote for Schools and Home Values

Mercer Island Realtors from Windermere, John L. Scott and Coldwell Banker Bain write in a letter to the editor urging a "YES" vote on the $196 million school bond for schools and home values.

Editor:

We are active Realtors, who represent 3 different major Real Estate Offices on Mercer Island.  We believe that it is very important to pass this school bond for our schools, our community and our home values.

Every day, we work with home buyers on Mercer Island as they evaluate their home-search priorities and the budget they have to spend on a home.   We work with buyers who come from the Seattle area, other parts of the U.S. and even other countries throughout the world.  The #1 draw to Mercer Island?  As we all know – our schools.  We have enjoyed a national reputation for offering great schools and education for years.   That has been fabulous for our kids and also fabulous for our home values.

Here’s our fear:  The “edge” that Mercer Island has had for its great schools is slipping.  Buyers moving across the bridge from Seattle stop first at Mercer Island because they know we have great schools.  But it is not uncommon for buyers to move beyond Mercer Island and head further east along I-90 to homes in Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah and Sammamish.   We are now very used to hearing buyers tell us that they might like a listing we have on the market, but “there’s a house in Issaquah (or Bellevue, Kirkland etc.) they like more that is newer or bigger, less expensive….and the schools there are good too.”  This trend is very real.  We have had to work harder to “sell” Mercer Island as the school districts to the east of us have grown up, developed and invested in their infrastructure.

We all know that good education comes from having strong teachers, involved parents, and a community that supports its schools.   All of this we have in spades.   But we can’t neglect our infrastructure and expect everything to remain the same.  The over-crowding problems in our schools are very real, and are going to get worse as our enrollment increases.  Our teachers and administrators are spending more of their time dealing with space issues and that impacts time they could be putting into programming and learning.  We aren’t able to provide as many opportunities for the arts, sciences, and personalized learning.  Why would we allow these compromises in our schools?

When prospective buyers really dig in and start to look at our schools on Mercer Island, they are surprised and disappointed to learn about our overcrowding issues and the lack of facilities we have compared to neighboring districts, who have been re-building their schools and providing top-notch facilities. 

We need to re-invest in our schools and make sure our facilities match up to our national reputation so we can keep that top spot.  Since 1990, Bellevue has invested almost $50,000/student in capital expenditures.  In that same time-frame on Mercer Island, we have invested a little over $10,000/student in capital expenditures.   We pay one of the lowest percentages in tax rates toward our schools in the entire area.  We simply aren’t currently funding what is needed for our schools.

For people who are concerned about the increase in taxes (of about $700/year for a home assessed at $1 Million), please realize that if we don’t invest in our schools, we will all lose a lot more than that in home values down the road.

Please protect our schools, our community and our home values.  Vote YES on this school bond.

Sarah Ford,

Linus Toy,

Mark Eskridge,

Jerry Gropp Architect AIA April 09, 2012 at 01:38 AM
The "active" (to say the least) Mercer Island Realtors are entirely right. Our good schools are a very important part of why people (including us) moved here. It seems really so silly to tear ALL these facilities down to the ground rather than just remodeling what we've all paid for. The students are not complaining according to MIHS Junior Kyle Huber's well-reasoned letter. Jerry- http://mercerisland.patch.com/articles/letter-mihs-junior-weighs-in-with-student-s-opinion
Ira B. Appelman April 10, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I think this letter to the editor is EXTREMELY misleading since the realtors claim to "represent" their respective realty firms. For example, Linus Toy claims to "represent" Windermere, so I contacted the listed OWNER, Julie Nugent, requesting clarification of whether Windermere had taken a position on the bond issue. Here is her response: "Thanks for your letter requesting clarification. Windermere has not taken a position on this matter. We respect the individual positions (on both sides) of our agents and recognize that there are many pros and cons to this bond measure. We trust that the voting process will bring forth the intent of the voters as a whole." These three realtor proponents of the $200 million bond issue raise the false choice of accepting a bloated, poorly planned bond issue or doing nothing, which is a false description of what many Islanders have been saying. If we vote NO, the School Board will be forced to present a better, more focused and specific plan. At the School Board meeting where the report of the 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee (21CFPC) was presented, Carrie George, a member of the Committee and leader of CMIPS, warned the Board NOT to emphasize the overcrowding issue because Islanders would insist on a plan focused on solving overcrowding If Islanders reject this poorly planned, $200,000,000 bond issue, we, as a community, can focus on dealing with the problem we have -- overcrowding.
Mark Eskridge April 10, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Mr. Appelman, In our letter above maybe we should have used the word choice of "representatives" vs "represent" but this minor discrepancy (certainly not extremely misleading given the fact that the Seattle King County Assoc. of Realtors has endorsed the bond and we are all members) does not change the fact that we, as Realtors, feel that this is a very important issue that will directly affect the property values of Mercer Island. As more and more people are relocating to the area or moving from Seattle towards the Eastside, these individuals are having personal debates as to whether or not to spend the extra money to live on the Island or go with bigger house/new schools on the Eastside As for the all or nothing claim you feel we are making, it is my personal opinion that if this bond fails we will end up spending more money to get less in return. I am not only an active Realtor on the Island, but I am a father of one child that is in Kindergarten and another that will be there in several years. As an active member of the West Mercer PTA, I see the dedication of our teachers and our parents that work tirelessly to make programs work in schools that are bursting at the seams. If we could just give our wonderful educators the 21st Century spaces that they deserve, we could take our quality of education to a whole new level - if it means having to pay an additional $0.70 per thousand for that possibility, it seems to me to be a small sacrifice for the greater good.
Carrie George April 11, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Ira, you've misquoted me. As I've said repeatedly, the reason we need to build schools now as opposed to in ten years is precisely because of our overcrowding problem. The only thing I can imagine saying that is remotely related to what you suggest is that the aspect of overcrowding that is unacceptable has to do with our schools' common spaces, not their classrooms. Our kids, teachers and staff are feeling the pain of insufficient spaces for individualized learning, music, art, PE, lunch - all shared spaces - and will continue to if this problem is not solved. If it were a matter of just adding more classrooms or portables to address overcrowding, this would be simple. But it's not. I never said that overcrowding was not the problem, but I may have said that it's a complex problem, and we shouldn't seek to oversimplify it. As an active campaigner and co-chair of CMIPS, I've tried very hard to keep this campaign civil and honest and about the facts. While I am confident that this plan is the most cost-effective, strategic plan for the education of the Island's current and future kids and by extension for the community, I accept that others may have different opinions. That's okay, as long as they're expressed constructively, respectfully, and are based on the truth. Misquoting and twisting people's words, as you've done here, takes a toll. It scares people away from participating, and that would be a sad consequence of the rhetoric around this bond.
Ira B. Appelman April 11, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Dear Mr. Eskridge: In your letter above you and your colleagues were trying to mislead Islanders into thinking that 3 large MI realty firms favored the bond issue. Otherwise, you are just three realtors and who cares what firms you work for if you don't "represent" them. As I quoted, the owner of Windermere/Mercer Island has confirmed that Windermere has NOT taken a position for or against the bond issue. I haven't received a response from your boss, but I assume John L. Scott/MI hasn't taken a position either, or you would have announced it here. You have a perfect right, which I strongly support, to state your personal opinions, as you have here and elsewhere. But based on the Windermere response, it appears that some realtors are for and some realtors are against the bond issue. It's not just about $200,000,000. If we go down this path, it's another $200,000,000+ to tear down and rebuild the megablock etc.. If we accept the District's estimate of $75,000,000 to tear down and rebuild IMS, it will certainly be $100,000,000 to $125,000,000 to tear down and rebuild MIHS, and then we must tear down and rebuild the Ad Bldg, the Stadium, Crest, the pool, etc. At a recent City Council meeting, the City Manager urged the Council to put a measure on the Nov ballot to rebuild the south end fire station. He said in 2013 King County will put some large measures on the ballot, so the fire station must go now. This bloated bond issue isn't the only expense we face.
William Osborne April 11, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Thank you "NO on MI School Bond" citizens for exposing the faults with the current bond proposal. You absorbed public insults within these forums. I think the CIMPS was hoping for a rubber stamp!
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA April 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
This Election I've encountered far more "NO on MI School Bond" citizens than ever before. They often say they've never, ever voted against any MI School Election- which certainly says a lot about this one. J-
Robert T. Brown April 12, 2012 at 04:03 AM
The 1990's bond was the first bond that voter's overwhelmingly rejected. The "Vote Yes" side tries to confuse the current bond with that bond. There were opponents to the individual bonds that followed, such as then-school board member El Jahncke. Additionally, "Yes" voters say a fourth school creates unequal demand for that school (the "new" school), but the '90's bond would have done the same thing --just with Lakeridge Elementary instead. Also interesting that the per square foot cost rose between the larger, failed bond and the smaller ones that followed.

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