A teacher’s view of the school bond question
October 31, 2006
As Nov. 7 approaches, I am reminded of what my mother used to say about elections. “I always make up my mind early because by the time the election rolls around, I don’t like anybody.” And she started voting in 1946.
That much hasn’t changed. Each election year, politicians bombard us with ads that oversimplify complex issues and individuals. I would hope that anyone wanting my vote could see more than one side of an issue. As our community becomes more diverse, we must find ways to reach consensus among competing interests and move forward.
Therefore, here are a few thoughts as I head toward early voting at the courthouse. I appreciate fellow columnists Guy Farmer and John DiMambro’s thoughtful recommendations in the Sunday, Oct. 22 Nevada Appeal. Once again, I find myself agreeing with Mr. Farmer about as often as I disagree. We both like Bonnie Parnell and Jill Derby. We both think it was a bad move for Dean Heller to align himself so closely with the president. I’ve voted for Heller in the past, but not this time. Sorry.
Still, it was gratifying to see the Appeal’s editorial balance demonstrated so clearly on a single day. For example, Mr. Farmer liked Gibbons for Governor while Mr. DiMambro liked Titus. This time I’ll side with DiMambro.
One issue that seems to have stayed out the fray, at least publicly, is the Carson City School Bond (Question No. CC1). The District is asking for $25 million for school improvements. And before your blood pressure rises over your property taxes going up, please read on. Your tax rate will not be increased by the bond. The existing tax rate of 47 cents per $100 of assessed value will simply be continued as the existing debt is repaid.
Furthermore, not passing the bond will not lower your taxes. Because of the Legislature’s recently passed “tax cap,” there will likely be no decrease in the tax payments made by the average homeowner. Government entities that don’t have to ask our permission will simply take up any slack to the tune of 3 percent per year. Even without passing the bond.
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What will we taxpayers get for our investment? The biggest chunk – $12 million – goes to Carson Middle School. The existing portables there have reached the end of their usefulness. An energy efficient permanent building will provide greater security for students and staff as well as reduce costs. If the bond does not pass, the old portables will need to be replaced at a cost of $1.3 million.
Another large item is the $11 million roofing, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning improvements needed throughout the district. In spite of preventative maintenance that the district performs on its nearly 21 acres of roofs, it is no longer cost-effective to keep on merely patching. Many roofs simply need to be replaced or rehabilitated in a major way.
Furthermore, throughout the district, the renovation and replacement of worn out or outdated mechanical systems will save money. Technological advances will also mean energy savings. In short, we need to spend some money now to save money later.
Finally, over the past 10 years, Carson High School has been plagued by inadequate storm drainage run-off. Standing water has deteriorated the athletic fields and track. This project will solve that problem, resulting in less maintenance and operational costs as well as safer conditions for school district and community use. That will cost about $2 million.
Yes, I complain about school policies from time to time, but it doesn’t mean I think the district can do a better job without the money to maintain the buildings. Carson City School District does not ask for money lightly. The district is not frivolous. For example, I know that the nearly 30-year-old carpet in my classroom won’t be replaced with this bond money. It will have to last a while longer. I’ll continue to patch it with Elmer’s glue.
The school bond has nothing to do with test scores or teacher pay. It’s all about protecting the value of Carson City’s schools – the actual schools, the bricks and mortar. You and I are the owners of these school buildings. Even if we don’t have children in school, the school buildings are our responsibility.
As a homeowner, I know that from time to time I must replace windows, put on a new roof or add a room so that my home continues to meet my needs and hold its value. Sometimes I’ve even had to borrow money to do it. Carson City schools deserve the same consideration.
• Lori Smith Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger Elementary School.