I went to the meeting at Hemingway School on Monday, Oct. 5, with two very specific questions: (1) Why is the Oct. 29 school board election six days before the Nov. 3 general election? and (2) why is this levy not a new tax?
The answers to both are quite simple: (1) Previous elections have proven that, when a school issue is combined with candidates running for mayor and council, the school issue gets lost in the shuffle with many voters ignoring it, and (2) Residents will continue to pay $158 per year on property valued at $419,610 (after a homeowner's exemption is deducted), the same amount they have been paying for the past 10 years to cover the costs of two levies, a 20-year bond levy and a 10-year plant facilities levy. These two levies expire in July 2010. The new proposal for $59.8 million is, to put it simply, an extension of the two, pulled together into one bank account (with no interest charges that bonds impose) and dedicated to the Blaine County school plant facilities.
If you want to read further, let me use one specific example to tell you how the general education budget will be impacted if this levy does not pass. The Blaine County School District has to replace the heating systems at Bellevue, Hailey and Hemingway Elementary School. If these monies have to come from the general education budget, eventually teachers could be released, programs could be eliminated and class sizes will increase to free up the money. On the other hand, the current proposal to retrofit existing older buildings with modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with money from the school plant facilities levy will save the district over $300,000 per year in utility costs. These utility savings will compound annually as utility costs increase conservatively at 7 percent per year. Those savings will be reflected in the general education budget with better and more innovative instruction of our children.
Go to the polls on Oct. 29 and vote yes for the Blaine County School District plant facilities levy!