Guest editorial: Pros outweigh cons with school bond
We need to vote YES on the School Bond. I agree with many of you that there are a number of reasons to be concerned about the bond, however, taken as a whole, there are more reasons to vote YES.
First, and most importantly, the number of students in the district has grown tremendously and our facilities need to be expanded to accommodate them. We can’t afford to wait until the next election cycle to approve a better bond. The overcrowding is already a huge issue and we need to start construction projects soon if we’re going to make any difference for the 2016-17 school year.
Second, interest rates are historically low, so it’s a good time to be issuing bonds. Given expectations for the Fed’s future actions, it’s likely that raising money will cost more the longer we wait. Another reason to approve this bond, rather than holding out for a better one.
Third, we should all be concerned about safety given the current overcrowding in our schools. There is a video circulating that shows students in the hallway of Treasure Mountain during a change in classes. If you’ve seen it, you know how shocking it is — there are far too many students in a very small space. It is a Fire Marshall’s nightmare of a possible catastrophic disaster. We owe it to our children to ensure they attend a school that can be safely evacuated. Treasure needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
Fourth, for those raising a concern that there are no plans to use the money directly for academics, I do want to provide some clarification. Academic programs are funded by the operating budget which includes all ongoing expenses, teacher salaries, books, school programs, etc. That money is raised through federal, state and local taxes. Issuing a bond is strictly for capital — not operating — expenses. The money that we raise with a bond can only be used for buildings and "one time" costs. We shouldn’t look to the bond to address funding for programming within our schools.
I don’t think this bond is perfect. Five years ago, the school board and the superintendent should have had the vision to begin this process. It would be great to have conducted this process in a much more considered way and over a longer period of time. The growth in our town is not new, and leadership should have seen this coming a long way off. Similarly, there’s no clear need for the extravagant investment planned for athletic facilities. It didn’t need to be included in this bond, and I’m optimistic that once we pass the bond, we can revisit the planned expenditures in this area. Unfortunately, we’re now faced with an emergency, and this is the bond we have in front of us.
I understand the desire to vote down the bond to send a message to leadership, but let’s remember who will really be hurt — our students and teachers who are struggling to succeed in overcrowded and sub-par schools. Let’s pass the bond now and get started on making the improvements they need as soon as possible. If we need to send a message to leadership, let’s save that for the School Board elections.