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Friday, October 31, 2014

Time to be farsighted

Posted Wednesday, April 2, 2008, at 9:37 AM

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.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Ah, a voice of reason. That is a breath of fresh air. It's comforting to see that their are people in this community who can see past their own means and see these bonds for what they really are... A way to better our community for the enjoyment of all. ALL!

I understand that times are tough, but I'm going to stick it out and do what I can to see that this town doesn't get stuck in the 1900's. It's time to improve!

-- Posted by bond_supporter on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 7:05 PM

Yes, bond supporter, I agree with you: Mr. Everett's piece today is measured and thoughtful and it is time for improvements to make a 4 year high school.

But there are so many expensive trappings beyond the necessary basics, that in its present form I will not vote for it. If plans were scaled back, I would, indeed, join you in being a bond supporter.

The Rec District scaled back some; why can't the School District do likewise?

-- Posted by senior lady on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 8:02 PM

As I understand it, the Rec District has been scaling back their facilities because they have a resonable expectation that the school bond will pass.

Why would the Rec District construct an auditorium when the high school was going to build one? Knowing that an auditorium attached to the school would be better than down the street, the Rec District scaled back that plan.

The school bond is going help us build athletic facilities that both students and public would be able use. Knowing that, the Rec District scaled back their extra facilities.

In a sense, the school bond and rec bond were somewhat redundant. Attaching these needed additions to the 4-year high school for student use during the day, and public use during the evening and weekends makes sense.

If we scale back both plans, then we are taking away the facilities that both the students and community need.

Why is the school district so adament on passing such a large facility now? Simple, this is the best price that we will EVER get. The price only gets higher from here.

This school bond was ALWAYS designed as a TWO PHASE project. The idea was ALWAYS to design and build a facility that will last us 20, 30, 50 years; way into the future.

Once the project is done, there will be no need to put up another bond to add on in the future when the prices are higher. By passing the bond in whole, we are securing a "low" price now, and building for the extended future.

Yes, the gym is a large project. But 30 years in the future, we'll be glad we "bought" it for the price we did. Yes, the auditorium is large. Again, when this community can finally foster a new appreciation for the arts, we'll be glad we did it when the prices were "low".

Everybody is attacking the schools/student performances. Indeed, the facts look grim. But let's look at how many of these students are involved in extra-curricular activities (all of which need new facilities). I, for one, don't believe I would have made it through school without my after school outlets. They were the only thing I looked forward to. State standards demand that students excel in academics before they participate in extra-curricular activities. Improve these opprotunities, we improve student experience, and in turn encourage student success. Take them away, and let's see what happens to student achievement and dropout rates.

The cornerstone of the project are the new extra classrooms needed to turn this building into the 4-year high school. The vo-tec additions are designed to give our large non-college bound graduates a chance in the real world. Those 2 factors are addressing our ACADEMIC part of the total education.

The gym is being built to foster ATHLETICS. In an age of sedentary lifestyles, we need something to attract and retain today's youth to being physically active and lead a healthier lifestyles. As well as build enough facilities that ALL students have a chance to partake in physical education. Current facilities limit how many can take physical ed at this time. There has been interest on Capitol Hill on increasing P.E. credits for graduation. If that were to happen tomorrow, many students would not be able to graduate because they physically can not take a class that does not have a facility.

The auditorium and arts wing are being designed to foster the ARTS. I'll address the fact that our current high school is dreadfully ill-equiped to foster any seriousness in the arts. Drama forced to practice with a P.E. class or sports, band and choir rehearsing in a room too small (you cannot fit both the students and all of their band equipment in the room at the same time) and not acoustically sound. In fact, the decibel levels during band rehearsal are well ABOVE DANGEROUS.

Sure, the school district could design a scaled-back bond plan that revolves around passing a new bond every 5 years for more additions. But economically, that is not a sound plan. Every additional bond will be inflated in price every time it comes up. Instead, the school district is trying to SAVE the public's money by bonding the entire SECOND PHASE as one large project.

Once passed, you can sit back and relax knowing that not only have you fostered the total educational experience (Academics, Arts, and Athletics), but you can take heart that you got it for the best price possible.

-- Posted by bond_supporter on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 8:58 PM

Is it any wonder that graduation rates are dropping around the country when people refuse to vote for bonds such as this one? If we can't give our kids the tools they need to succeed, we should really stop being surprised when the graduation rates are so low. Furthermore, is it really any surprise that people complain about the school and the community when the chances to better both are consistently shot down because people don't want to pay for them? Denmark is said to be the happiest place on earth and they pay almost fifty percent taxes. In the vein of good business sense, you have to spend money to make money - you have to spend money to feel safe and have a better community. People should stop complaining about educational programs and failing graduation rates if they aren't willing to put their dollars where their mouths are and do something about it.

-- Posted by hottieballer on Fri, Apr 4, 2008, at 6:10 AM

That would be way too simple though, Karen.

-- Posted by mrfresh28 on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 9:59 AM

the way peopel think about this bond issue, hey do you think you can pay off my house and credit cards , I have a future too

-- Posted by Freedom on Sun, Apr 27, 2008, at 9:52 AM


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