With the economy in the tank, right now any request by government entities for new projects that would raise taxes is being met with considerable skepticism -- at the least -- by the voters.
Right now, the voters are being asked to approve a $37.5 million bond for Phase II of the high school project, an obligation that would finally turn the junior high into the long-awaited high school. That bond would cost between $7-$8 a month for a home with a taxable assessment, after all homeowner's deductions, of about $100,000 (that's a home with an unadjusted assessment of roughly $180,000).
Down the road, the Western Elmore County Recreation District is hoping voters will approve a bond to build the long-awaited community center (an obligation WECRD directors insist won't raise taxes because it can be paid from the district's existing levy).
And some time in the next few years the hospital is going to come back and try again to get voter approval to expand its facilities and services.
All of these requests are a product of the growth of this community, and the subsequent need to expand its infrastructure. Few people disagree that those improvements wouldn't be useful and welcomed, but right now voters are seeing major squeezes on their disposable income, causing them to understandably lean against approval.
None of the projects are going to get cheaper, however. Construction costs are rising 2-3 times faster than inflation in most of the other sectors of the economy. If you think the cost of gas, bread and milk has gone up, try buying wood, steel, concrete and asphalt. In just six months, the projected cost for the school district proposal rose nearly 10 percent for the identical plan put forward last fall.
Right now, the school district bond is the only one officially on the table. To a certain extent, the school district is asking voters to make a leap of faith -- that the economy will get better by the time the bond's obligation actually shows up on your tax bill (which wouldn't be any earlier than 2009).
That's not an unreasonable leap. Being an election year, you can bet Congress is going to do everything it can to get the economy to rebound by the fall elections. Most experts think the current "recession" will be fairly short-term, so by the time you have to start actually paying for this thing, you may be feeling a little more confident about your ability to handle an extra $7 to $8 a month on your property tax payment.
Voters are therefore being asked to see the long-term picture, to look beyond the crisis of the moment and recognize that the cost for the school bond will never go down but only rise faster than basic inflation, that the need is now, and that the future is probably going to get a little brighter.
Making that leap of faith isn't easy, but we hope the voters will do so. It will demonstrate a wisdom that goes beyond immediate concerns and is a vote of faith in the future.