By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
Working on the school bond has certainly been an eye-opening experience, and some of what I have seen comes right back like a reflection in the mirror.
I come from the anti-tax cut of cloth.
When I see so much wasteful spending in government, like NSA parties in Vegas, it makes me lose trust in the leadership of the country that I cherish.
There have been times when my frustration has risen to the “throw the bums out” mentality, and I still believe there are times when that is a healthy consideration.
But I have also watched as parents, educators and community members sought real solutions to the overcrowding problem and the portable classroom situation.
I still hear people deny there is an overcrowding issue no matter what the numbers show. I suppose there are still some who believed we never landed on the moon, either.
When we were staring the facts in the face, the Vision Committee was challenged with how to solve them.
We didn’t come up with an answer on our own. If we had, it would have failed.
The people in Liberal don’t like to be told how to vote, myself included, and that was the thought of the Vision Committee as well.
Instead, there were 30-plus community meetings to share the overcrowding data, the projections for the future, and then the public was asked, “How should we fix this?”
The plan was refined several times as the community set financial limits and provided other restrictions, like keeping two middle schools instead of one.
We had to look at not only what was best for the schools, but what was the best financial deal we could get for the taxpayers.
I have had to defend the plan in the paper and on Facebook.
The reality I saw was that bond or no bond, we were all going to have to pay for more classrooms.
When the community faced those same challenges in the past, we were given stopgap solutions — portables. We now have enough portables that we could have built two new elementary schools. If we would have done it the right way, we would have shared the cost with the state, and we wouldn’t have had to do as much this time around.
I have always been one of the voices telling our leaders, “Keep my taxes low, no matter what.” Now we have a tax increase coming because in an effort to “keep my taxes low, no matter what,” we wasted precious tax dollars on poor solutions and now have to fix them.
If we had come together with long-term solutions years ago, we would have needed two less schools, and we wouldn’t have 38 portable classrooms.
We can’t make that mistake again.
We can fix the mistakes of the past and not turn down the help we could have had years ago if we would have used bonds to build schools rather than local funds to build portables.
What I have learned is that the best solution is not always keeping my taxes low no matter what. Sometimes that approach ends up costing a lot more.
As we were planning, my thought process was what would get the taxpayers the most needed improvements with the maximum amount of support from other sources that would not be a waste of the money.
That’s how this plan was formed.
There will still be conspiracy theories, alternative “cheaper” plans and those that deny the earth is round, or I mean that the schools are overcrowded.
In the end, those theories won’t solve the issues or save taxpayers a dime.
This plan will, or I wouldn’t have been a part of it.
No matter what the issue, at some time there comes a reckoning, or a time to bite the bullet. We have reached it.
As I see the advance voting numbers, more than 300 have already cast their ballots. That’s good. People are having their voices heard. If you have yet to do so, I won’t leave you with a sappy suggestion of doing what’s best for the kids, but I will ask you to consider what plan will ever be able to do so much for so little? What plan will bring $63.5 million from the state and another $28.3 million from sales tax?
If you want to look for reasons to oppose the plan, or any plan, you will find them. I am asking you to consider the benefits, too, and see which will be the best for the taxpayers long term.
We have a great opportunity to solve the overcrowding the right way for the best price that will save taxpayers millions when considering the alternative of purchasing more portables and patchwork with no state aid or sales tax option and hoping for some other plan down the road. Inflation and interest rates will only go higher, making a future solution even more expensive for those on fixed incomes.
I ask you to consider, like I did, if an attempt to say no to taxes actually costs more in the long run. If that’s the case, I ask you to consider that keeping your taxes as low as possible means we approve the state aid and sales tax and do this right with a yes, yes vote.