In just a few weeks, voters in the Mountain Home community will go to the polls to vote on a measure that will help shape the future of our school district.
The plant facility levy will ensure that students attending schools in this community go to classes in buildings where the roofs don't leak and electrical systems are capable of handling the power demands of today's high-tech classrooms.
It's a levy that needs to succeed. There's far too much at stake.
This newspaper has gone to great lengths over the past few years to outline the challenges the district faces in terms of scraping together enough money to make these large-scale repairs. Unfortunately, these projects also have some big price tags attached to them since we've waited so long to correct these problems.
Four years ago, the school district went to local voters asking them to support a similar plant facility levy. Needing the support of 65 percent of voters in the Mountain Home School District, that measure failed after gaining nearly 61 percent of the needed "yes" votes.
For the current measure to pass, it needs the support of at least 55 percent of voters in out community. Personally, I hope it passes by a significantly larger margin.
Had that levy passed back in 2011, I seriously doubt we would be dealing with this dire situation. Most of these problems identified by the district would likely be fixed by now, and that levy would be nearly paid off.
Instead, we ended up kicking the ball down the road, so to speak, after that levy failed. But the problems affecting our schools didn't go away. They continued to linger and some of them actually got worse and, more to the point, a lot more expensive.
I have to emphasize that the figures outlined in the levy and the projects it will go to fund were not something drafted by members of the district -- a point of contention raised by voters back in 2011. The budget numbers were put together by concerned parents in our school district, who spent months developing a workable and affordable plan to fix our schools.
What they presented to the school board was clearly spelled out with priority given to fixing the roof at Hacker Middle School. That information is also spelled out in the levy ballot that people can read when they go to the polls.
I understand there are a number of people in this community who will vote against this levy. But it always seems these folks are wrapped around one issue: Having to pay taxes.
We all pay taxes because we want to ensure a fire truck shows up at our house if it ever catches fire or to have police officers patrolling our streets to keep them safe.
So why can't they understand the importance of providing children -- our future nonetheless -- with the tools they need to succeed?
After all, when these critics went to school when they were children, someone before them ended up paying their fair share to ensure the schools were in good condition and provided a safe learning environment. Now it's time for us -- all of us -- to return the favor by ensuring our children and our grandchildren go to school in buildings that are not only safe but are places where they can enjoy learning.
I suppose I'm getting sick and tired of people in this district who constantly complain about having to pay their taxes only to blame the school district for its financial problems. Yet I never see one of these people -- not one -- ever point their finger at the real source of the problem.
The issue rests with the state lawmakers who really don't seem willing to fund schools where they need to be, especially ones in rural communities like Mountain Home. Take the case in 2008 when the state received $70 million from the state lottery that was intended to help repair our schools.
What happened instead was our lawmakers ended up taking the same amount of money out of the general fund, meaning the schools across the state saw not one additional penny to help meet their needs.
Of course, when the legislature meets in Boise, they can point to schools there and talk about how nice they look. What they would probably neglect to mention is that the Boise School District is set up vastly different than districts like Mountain Home.
This is why students in Boise can enjoy going to school in buildings that could compare to the Taj Majal. Meanwhile, our children end up having to dodge trash cans in the hallways in their schools because the roof leaks each time it rains.
The other complaint I'm hearing with regards to the proposed levy is that people's taxes will go up. Had anyone bothered to check, they would've learned that the school district is getting ready to pay off the bond that was used to build the junior high school.
Putting it simply, the amount of money people were already paying on that bond would simply carry over to cover the plant facility levy. In some cases, it's possible that people could even see their taxes actually drop.
The upcoming levy comes as the school district welcomes three new people to its board of trustees. The people of this community made it abundantly clear that new leadership -- a fresh perspective -- was needed in our school district.
However, we still have schools where the roofs leak, electrical systems that are woefully outdated and playgrounds that need a whole lot of work to make them safe for our children to use.
That's why we need this levy to pass. Our children deserve better.
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On a completely separate note, the Mountain Home News has updated its policy regarding its letters to the editor. Starting this week, letters submitted to run in the newspaper are limited to no more than 500 words.
This gives people plenty of room to say what's on their mind without getting long winded in the process.
This does not affect our existing policy on paid election letters.
-- Brian S. Orban