Saturday, December 20, 2014

An educated vote


When my wife and I have an important decision to make and feel we don’t have the information necessary to make a sound choice, we seek the counsel of trained professionals, experts, individuals educated in the area in which we need guidance. For example, when I needed major surgery several years ago, we sought the opinion of a highly regarded neurosurgeon, or when my truck’s transmission started slipping, we called on our mechanic, whose advice was needed in order to make an informed decision.

It seems to me this is exactly what the current West Franklin School Board has done. They were faced with several major issues, including deteriorating buildings, declining enrollment and disappearing state funding. They sought the opinion of experts, trained professionals educated specifically to assess these types of issues. They have had public meetings, taken polls and formed a committee comprised of 14 members of our community, all in an effort to provide us with enough information to make an informed decision. They have developed a plan of action, and now have brought that plan before the registered voters of our district, in the form of a bond issue, so that we may decide the future of our school district ourselves — all while being harshly criticized by some of their own neighbors.

I don’t feel they have tried to shove anything down our throats. As a matter of fact, I think we all owe them a thank you for their hard work and diligent efforts regarding these issues. They have proven that their only agenda has been to provide the best possible education for our young people while being responsible with our tax dollars. Is that not what we elected them to do in the first place? I will be voting for all of the current board members who are running for re-election April 2 (Thayne Bush, Sherry Harris, Stacy Hower and Stacia Spencer). They have certainly earned that much.

As for the bond issue itself, improvement will not be free — anything worthwhile seldom is. According to the analysis, dated March 4, 2013, provided by the asset management firm PiperJaffray, on a $14-million dollar, 30-year bond, the projected annual tax increase for a home valued at $75,000 would be $106.52, less than $9 per month. That’s less than three gallons of gas or two McDonald’s extra value meals per month. Everyone will have to determine for themselves what they consider affordable might be, but given the political climate in Kansas regarding public education, I am reasonably sure this will be our only opportunity to make affordable improvements to the structure of our schools — the 25 percent in state aid currently available is most likely going away, folks.

I realize those of us who are landowners will face tax hikes as well. Projected tax increases (from the same source) on dry crop land would be 0.41 cents per acre annually and grass land 0.13 cents per acre annually. If I work five days a week, 52 weeks a year — that’s 260 days a year — I stop and buy a cup of gas station coffee on my way to work for about a dollar. If I calculate correctly, that would be enough money to pay the projected tax increase on 1,500 acres of grassland, with about $60 to spare. Sounds like an affordable investment in the future of our community to me.

If we choose to patch and paint our way around this issue and dump the financial burden on the next generation of taxpayers (our children), it will almost certainly be overwhelming for them. If, on the other hand, we decide to share in the responsibility for the improvements that hopefully will provide years of stability in our district, we might reverse the exodus of our young people and possibly attract new families to our district. After all, were we not all educated in buildings paid for by someone else?

No matter which side of these issues you support, don’t allow someone else to decide who will represent you on our school board or how your tax dollars will be spent. Please vote. Apathy may prove to be the greatest threat to the survival of our schools.

— Joe Hawkins, Quenemo

comments powered by Disqus