BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
Of course it’s sour grapes. Of course it is.
I’m deeply concerned that we didn’t pass the referendum for a new preK-3rd grade elementary school last week. The Keep Improving District Schools (KIDS) Committee did an unbelievable job at getting voters to the polls for the second attempt at a $27 million facility including two high school ball fields.
There are a lot of educators out there that are taking the high road and looking to the next school year with plans for teaching in dilapidated, inferior schools. And they will do just that.
But I’m still irked. Again a campaign, not just of misinformation, but from my perspective, irrelevant information, was waged against the children in our neighborhoods.
Here’s one thing you didn’t see. No one, in all their complaining through social media threads and in area newspapers, cited as their reason for voting against the referendum this – the students don’t need a new school.
I read a TON of comments on our social media threads as to why people were against the issue. Most were based on inadequate information. Some, even more frustrating, fixated on the past. Those were wasted votes.
You cannot be serious voting against the children of this district because you’re irked at construction issues, or you heard this or heard that, when we had many, many public meetings to inform people. Nothing in the past has anything to do with these kids. We had one person who kept saying we were fake news. I chuckle at the comments as we thought of blocking him, but I refused to do so. It’s an opinion and free speech.
They said we weren’t writing the full story. Our full story was that the youngest students in this district needed a new school. Whether there was a construction flaw in the current building doesn’t matter to me. Show me a building of that scope that didn’t have a construction flaw. If that’s the case, has it been corrected? Then, whatever the reason, I do not care. If there was an issue, it was between the contractor and the district, it’s been, or is being, taken care of, that’s all I care about. It has nothing to do with the needs of our youngest students.
If Superintendent Erin Slater said there were issues with the middle school construction and moving of students. I do not care. It’s been resolved.
If it was an issue of traffic at the new building. I do not care. It’s been resolved. Transportation…playgrounds..all resolved. It’s what school districts do. They are charged with solving problems.
There were not four attempts to pass this legislation, it was the second time. There was an attempt years back to pass a referendum to build the middle school that failed, so the state provided an option to use sales tax for that type of construction. Cool.
But now the state needs to provide another change. The time for the super majority is over. This is a different economy and the minority is blocking progress. It’s tough enough to get a majority vote. Look at the last few elections. The combined courthouse vote only got 31% approval. The recent vote for a new health department got 45% approval.
It’s tough enough. And enough’s enough. Those defeats were sound, but this recent election was a majority – 55%. The state’s finances are not such that extra money is going to come to the local governments. Our revenues are based on sales tax and property tax. Lots of TIF districts exist that are keeping millions off the tax rolls that weren’t so prevalent in the days where super majority hurdles were more easily cleared.
I’m confident that people a heck of a lot smarter than me are going to get this referendum passed – because our children need it. But I think a serious look needs to be taken at current economic and local level governmental agencies financial constraints. The pressures of property taxes on people are causing them to think it’s ok to just leave everyone in the 1970s, 60s and, geesh, even 40s. We cannot continue to live there.
State Senator Rich Taylor and State Reps. Jerry Kearns and Dave Heaton, I would encourage you to look at an amendment or introduce a bill to remove the super majority law and allow taxing districts a better shot, at a minimum, of progress.
But that’s Beside the Point.