Two weeks ago, I implored local citizens and Journal readers to vote for the Southern Boone School District’s no-tax-increase bond issue to raise funds for the purpose of improving facilities at three of our four campuses. As you can imagine, I was both relieved and proud that the measure passed. To those 869 people who voted to support our schools, our teachers—and of course our kids—I thank you.
Interestingly, 288 residents of Southern Boone County voted against the bond issue. In fact, one out of every four people who took the time to drive themselves to the polls on that cold and rainy day did so in order to expressly deny our schools those much-needed funds. I find this decision fascinating and deserving of further exploration.
Although the measure required no tax increase, it did call for a continuation of the current debt service levy which increased by 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation two years ago. When 855 residents voted for the 2016 bond issue, property taxes for houses valued at $150,000 increased by $42.75 per year. For budgeting purposes, that amounts to setting aside an extra $3.56 per month. In other words, twelve new classrooms, a gymnasium, and a weight room were built with a cost to the average household of one Starbucks coffee per month.
The 2018 bond issue merely continued the debt service levy. As a result, an administration building, retooling of seven former classrooms currently being used as offices, another gymnasium, and a new baseball/softball facility (freeing up space for a future addition to the middle school) will all be funded by skipping one cup of coffee per month per household.
When you add it all up, these two bond issues will pay for nineteen classrooms, two gymnasiums, a weight room, a baseball/softball complex, and an administration building—all at a cost to the average property-owning household of under twelve cents per day.
The median property tax in Boone County is $1,397 per year for a house with a median value of $153,900. The $42.75 that Southern Boone property owners have elected to invest in the future of our schools is not insignificant, but at twelve cents per day, it is barely noticeable.
This brings me back to my point. Now that we’ve seen how negligible the financial impact to property owners is, why did 400 people in 2016 and 288 this year vote against the school bond issues? One possible reason might be that some folks are against any increase in taxes, no matter how slight. Fair enough. But can you imagine what would have happened had these two bond issues not been approved? At the rapid rate in which enrollment is increasing in our school district, where would we have placed the kids that would have filled those 17 additional classrooms? Do you think teachers would be willing to continue to work here at their current below-average rate of pay while teaching 30 kids per classroom instead of 20? I can tell you from first-hand experience that teaching and managing the behavior of 20 children at a time is the most demanding job I’ve ever had. I cannot fathom trying to effectively educate, and keep safe, 30 kindergartners in one overcrowded classroom.
There may be some who argue, “I don’t have any kids in this school district. Why should I have to pay for other people’s kids to go to school?” I will answer in the words of Fred Rogers.
Mister Rogers once said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
The children of today will be the doctors, teachers, leaders, and decision-makers of tomorrow. It is imperative that we give them all the tools they need on order to become well-educated and productive citizens. To those of you who continue to support the young people of our community, you are heroes. Thank you for voting for the school bond issues, and thank you for investing in our most valuable asset—our children.