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There Is A Need

February 13, 2018
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

I will preface this by stating unequivocably, I do not enjoy paying my taxes any more than anyone else does. There are all too many times when we as taxpayers see things that make us wonder one of two things - 1) Why aren't my tax dollars being used to fix this, or 2) Why were my tax dollars used to fund this Taj Mahal project? (or something of a similar nature)

In the next few paragraphs, I'm going to address one of those scenarios where a project requiring tax dollars is being proposed and we the voters will be asked to make a decision.

As a resident in the Graettinger-Terril School District and a homeowner in Graettinger, I, along with other district patrons, will be going to the polls on April 3 to vote on a bond issue for our school district. At stake are improvements to the Terril school building, including security upgrades and improvements. The other part of the bond issue is to fund a new competition gymnasium facility, as well as instructional rooms and facilities in Graettinger. The price tag on this question is $9.7 million - admittedly not cheap, by anyone's standards.

But let's look at this objectively for a moment. This bond issue question was posed last Fall in the district, and was defeated by the narrowest of margins, receiving 57.32 percent "yes" votes and 42.68 percent "no" votes. Under Iowa law, a bond issue requires 60 percent approval - and the original vote came up just 2.68 percent short of approval.

In terms of actual votes cast, 462 voters said yes, while 344 said no, a total of 806 votes.

The original bond issue would have required a taxable levy of $2,70 per $1,000 of taxable valuation on property in the school district. For me personally, a yes vote would have added about $20 a year to my taxes. My thinking? "Sure, why not?"

As a graduate of the Graettinger schools back in 1976, I can recall the countless hours I?spent in the classrooms and the facilities of the school, including the old, three-story structure that housed the high school classrooms, back in my day. That portion of the building was raised in the early 2000s; a vo-ag/Industrial arts building, greenhouse and a new lunchroom/multipurpose facility were built and/or added on in the 1990s, but for the most part, the school has remained unchanged.

The gymnasium, with all of its seating on one side, is in need of replacement. The actual playing floor is one of the smallest in the region, barely regulation in size for a basketball court, and three-point shooters with anything over a size 12 foot are flirting with being out-of-bounds as they shoot. While the district has done an admirable job of maintaining and keeping the gym useable over the years, safety standards, as well as federal regulations and guidelines continue to chip away at the functionality of the facility.

More space is needed, pure and simple. A modern, inviting facility speaks well of the learning environment in any school district. Facilities that are older, cramped, perhaps not as bright and inviting often send a subliminal message that is less than optimal to guests, let alone students.

I understand fully that our rural economy has been stuck in neutral for the most part over the past few years, and is much slower than the rest of the country to recover, but yet, I'm sure we can all agree we'd rather deal with our circumstances than those faced in other parts of our country.

To my thinking, it's pretty hard to put a value on a quality, solid education - no matter what level. While there are some who will object to this project and its' cost, the final question has to be the most obvious. Are you as a taxpayer, willing to invest in our future, with that future being our youth and their education?



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