By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
The national debt clock continues to spin out of control as spending in Washington escalates to historic proportions on a near annual basis.
When it comes to spending millions of taxpayer dollars to find out how shrimp run under water, there comes a point when we all get disgusted with taxes and the abuses of big government.
There are some positive use of tax dollars, even if they get blurred with the abuses of the extravagant Vegas “training” trips and bonuses to other bureaucrats.
We all like having our trash picked up, and we don’t mind paying a fee for it.
We also enjoy the peace of mind of having fire fighting personnel and equipment along with law enforcement maintaining the peace.
And, we all see the benefit in educating children.
What is always difficult is separating what is good use of tax dollars and what is not — what is really needed and what is a comfort.
The school bond is one of those areas where we have to look at it closely to see if it is part of an overall community plan, or if it is simply a desire for something new.
This weekend, I gave a local tour to a prospective pastor looking to come to our church. We drove around Liberal, looked at our business community, our theater, restaurants, bowling alley, and she also had the chance to see our schools.
Driving down Kansas Avenue, we looked at Washington with all of the portables. Then on Pancake Boulevard we drove by McDermott, Liberal’s oldest building at 85, and its set of portables.
There was South (and portables), West (and portables), and the list went on.
There was no question just trying to get by wasn’t getting us by any more.
The waste, the utter waste of money spent on those portables, the sidewalks to them and all the wasted cost of construction and engineering glared at me.
The taxpayers have not been served with these piecemeal solutions.
We have to plan better.
And not just our schools.
We need to know as a community who we want to be, and what we are going to do to make that vision come true.
I hear many people talk about economic development and wanting more businesses in Liberal, but there is some belief that Old Navy or Red Lobster isn’t coming to town because we are not making a strong enough effort in economic development.
That is partially true, but it has nothing to do with City Hall or the economic development department and everything to do with us making the right decisions to use our tax dollars the right way that leads to growth.
You can try to bribe a business to town, sure, but what it really takes is the right climate in the community.
Patchwork schools do not lend to the belief that Liberal wants to grow.
There is a difference between planned growth and uncontrolled growth.
One involves a responsible approach to becoming the community we want to be, and the other is more like weeds in a garden. They grow whether you want them or not, and it’s not necessarily the growth you expected or planned.
A responsible use of tax dollars is to direct our future with every dollar we spend — that there is an overall purpose and plan, and that plan has to include a plan for future growth.
The current plan to replace many of our dilapidated schools involves that kind of thinking.
Down the road, if one or two classes are needed, it can be done by expanding the building rather than wasting money on portables. The new buildings will be built with growth in mind, and a way to do so efficiently and responsibly.
If we support the plan, we not only solve the issues facing the school district, but we create a framework for how we will grow in the future.
And, we receive 71 percent support from sources other than property owners.
If we say no, we continue to try to duct tape our problems with no real plan for now or the future.
And that plan comes with a 100 percent cost to the property owners. No bond means no state match and no sales tax.
The growth is already here. The population is already here. We can either continue to let the weeds grow in our community uncontrolled, or we can decide to plan our future. But the problem is here, either way, and in four weeks, we decide between two solutions.
A yes vote says we will plan our growth and receive $91 million to match our $36 million over the next 25 years.
A no vote says we won’t plan for growth, let it happen however it happens, and pay $36 million or more on patchwork and portables over the next 25 years with no additional help or support.
There is a time when a yes vote is cheaper than a no vote. This is that time.