Taxes bite, but schools are a need; learn before you vote

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You might have noticed, if you have been reading your Wood County Monitor and the articles I have written covering the Mineola School Board, that the school district has called another bond election. Now, stop, before you throw up your hands and say, “It’s too much,” please hear me out on what I need to say, and then make up your mind.

The school district’s first bond election in many years this past spring failed by 79 votes. There were 999 people who voted, which is pretty good by local election standards. As usual, there were certain groups who didn’t turn out – want to guess which one stands out? The parents. The very people whose children and maybe eventually grandchildren and possibly great grandchildren might benefit. (The school board is trying to plan for 50 years.)

I understand young, working folks are busy trying to keep food in the pantry and children clothed and cared for, but exercising your right to vote as a citizen of the United States of America is an extremely important example to set for your children’s future.

But what I wanted to relay is how important it is that every single person stop radioing and start receiving long enough to read or hear all of the facts. As I covered those meetings I fervently wished that the public was there to hear the board and administration’s discussions about the needs, the public’s input and their exasperation.

Most everybody agreed there is a need for a new high school. From talking to most people I know, that’s the only thing everybody agreed on.

Many of you know this but for anyone who hasn’t been here a long time, Mineola is the place it is today because of people looking to the future. During the last bond election I even saw slams on social media by folks against Mineola, but I ask you to take a good look around and see if you can find any other little towns our size with what we’ve got going on. Of course our town’s not perfect, but no town is.

This town is what it is thanks to selfless people who gave of their time, their money and their energy. I know, I’ve had a ringside seat to nearly all of it. When I left the Monitor in the early 1980s to move out of state, stores were closing and Mineola was becoming a ghost town. My return to the Monitor in 1988 was just about the time Mineola gained Main Street status and many great things have occurred since then.

So please make sure you have gathered all of the information before you cast your vote in the bond election. The Monitor has been the only media covering the board meetings, and our past editions are available online and we have back editions in print. I’ve written lengthy articles trying to do justice to these elected representatives’ discussions. Elected representatives, I might add, who have not even had hardly anyone else interested in filing for those same seats for years.

Most of the people I talked to about the bond had their own ideas about how to solve it. That’s great, if you’ll run for school board and convince the other six members to agree with you. And then ask the public to decide upon your idea.

Please do your duty to get credible information from reputable sources. The district can’t advocate for the election but they can provide information. Check out their website, mineolaisd.net. There is a wealth of information on there about the election.

Superintendent Kim Tunnell told me her greatest hope is that people would get credible information before making their decision.

Safety, if nothing else, is a key issue here. Try to imagine being the person responsible for 1,600 children’s safety. There are four campuses and at the high school many classes held in outlying buildings. Imagine if, heaven forbid, an emergency occurred in which everyone needed to be secured, but students are switching classes and in between one of several outbuildings where they go for classes and other things.

Also imagine a potential business prospect visiting our town and looking at our schools as part of the consideration of whether to bring a job-creating, tax generating business here. I did that on the facilities tour I attended, which, by the way, was only attended by two other non-school people. I think the darkest moment to me was seeing one of the science classrooms in an “annex” with a leaky roof. I definitely would not want any visitor to see that area.

And then there was the morning the week after the failed bond election when I was delivering newspapers to the elementary. There they were - two groups of students playing instruments outside of the band hall. This was the first time I’d ever seen this, but thinking it might have been because the band hall was too crowded, I shot a photo. The band director told me they were, indeed, outside because there wasn’t enough room in the band hall. Different groups have to practice in different areas, too. I know that the band hall was crowded back when my sons, now 31 and 33, were going to school there and nothing’s changed about the building while the band has expanded.

There is also the issue that the classes in the schools are out of requirements for classroom size. The facilities at the middle school are bursting at the seams for the student populations and especially any type of special event with families.

The board is trying to plan for the students’, and consequently this town’s future. Yes, the tax bites. But it is proportionate to the value of your and my home. The median-priced home in our district at the time of the last election was about $110,000. Yours may be valued higher or lower so your tax rate is multiplied by every $100 of value of your home or, “per $100 valuation.”

Everyone who is 65 gets the amount they pay for school taxes on their homestead frozen at that magic time. Your rate won’t increase even if the bond is passed. It doesn’t matter what you home is valued at, or whether the appraisal district increases the value. The only over 65s whose taxes would increase are those who also own property other than their home or who make additional improvements, such as an add-on. These aren’t the senior citizens who choose whether to pay the electric bill, buy food or fill their prescriptions.

The speed at which the board is acting has been another grumbling point. But they know that building costs are increasing and the more time that passes, the more it will cost, or the less we’ll get for what we do spend.

These folks are truly doing the best that they can. They are taxpayers to the school district too and they are already giving of themselves to serve in a volunteer position which at times can be thankless and demands a lot of their time. It would benefit the future of our school and our community for all who vote to make sure and get all of the facts from a credible source before you make up your mind. Tuesday was the last day to register to vote. Early voting begins Oct. 23 and the election will be Nov. 7.

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