No better time to upgrade Central Lee than now

Opinion
CHUCK VANDENBERG

Well here we go again.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, voters in the Central Lee School District will be casting votes to spend $13 million for some much need upgrades as part of the district’s master facility plan.

Nobody gets $13 million for free. Not even Powerball winners get it for free. You gotta pay. And you’re gonna pay for 20 years. There’s no way around it.

Footing the bill to upgrade and repair our schools has always been a burden shouldered by the taxpayers. Whether that comes in the form a sales tax on purchased goods, or on the shoulders of property owners – in some way, we all pay.

When you’re used to paying a certain amount in property taxes to your school district and the district says, “Hey, we can borrow $13 million and we’re going to fix up these schools and you’re gonna pay for it for the next 20 years. But if we do it right now, we can do it without you having to pay a higher rate than you are now,” that would seem like a decent deal to me.

And it is. Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier has been very open and honest about the reality that due to the large increase in the county’s valuation, the state formula dropped the district’s tax levy, so without a 60%+1 majority vote on the referendum Tuesday, Central Lee taxpayers will, in all likelihood, see a decrease in their property tax rate for the district.

With valuations climbing, though, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a lower property tax bill.

So if the district set its rate at $12.19/$1,000 of assessed valuation last year, and with a debt service of $12.9 million, the district can leave that rate right where it is….is there a better time to make the investment?

We don’t think so. And district taxpayers shouldn’t either. Who knows what will happen with the valuation in the county. We’ve heard there are several large scale appeals on the horizon that could change that dynamic, so, no, there’s not going to be a better time to get that construction done.

We were hard on the Fort Madison School District when they sent voters to the polls last time because we thought they were playing loose with the facts of what it actually cost taxpayers to build a $30 million school, but Dr. Crozier has been forthcoming and open with taxpayers about the consequences of the bond passing… and failing.

Larger communities are passing these referendums by flying colors, but depressed economies are less likely to properly balance the need for upgraded learning facilities against the need to hold on to more of their hard-earned money. Most say it’s because they didn’t get all the facts. That’s garbage because the facts are there if you go get them.

But if that’s been a reason for voting no, Dr. Crozier and the board have thrown that excuse out the back window. With them, it is what it is. You pass this, you’re on the hook for $12.9 million over 20 years, but it comes at a time when your rate won’t increase. You don’t pass it, “we have to go back to the drawing board and find out how to reach this district’s master facility plan,” Crozier said Monday. “But your taxes will probably go down.”

If you’re on the fence, ask yourself this. “Why am I voting no, this time?” Then really think it through.

We will say what we’ve said all along with these referendums. Yeah…it’s a lot of money. And we all pay for it. But it’s a good deal, and with the pipeline, some railroads, and a fertilizer plant beefing up valuations….now it’s a steal.

Vote “Yes” and let’s build something for our students and teachers.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5762 Articles
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