Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.
--Rutherford B. Hayes
The board voted Aug. 16, 6-0, to approve putting the bond on the ballot for Nov. 8, with my reluctant support. The bond projects are specified here. I appreciate all those who attended and spoke about the bond. Your participation really does have an impact. We may have blogs, facebook, audio recordings, and minutes of meetings, but there is still something to be said for people taking the time to show up and comment.
In that vein, it appears the majority of people in our district are comfortable with the bond and our current process of going into debt to build and maintain our schools. The bond survey indicated a 70% approval for this bond. And, in the past 10 years, the bonds have passed with more than 60% support. Additionally, during the public bond meetings this spring, with very few exceptions, the emphasis was on what projects would go into the bond, not how do we avoid debt or limit the amount of the bond. In fact, over 700 people showed up to influence the inclusion of a new high school in Lehi at a single meeting.
I am opposed to continued debt. So, why would I vote in favor of the bond? Have I been corrupted? Bought? Co-opted? Having voted for me, I'd be saying, "What could she have been THINKING?" To change the direction of government requires a massive manifestation of the will of the people. I want us to get out of debt, whether through austerity or a less-painful, calculated plan. I do not find the status quo acceptable. However, the only way the debt status quo will change is if the vast majority of people are willing to do the "hard thing". The only way to get a commitment of the people is through a bond election.
I see three main perspectives on the bond. Which one are you?
Position 1.) I am comfortable with the way things are. I may not like the idea of debt, but this is how it has always been done. We need more schools, updated buildings, seismic fixes, and weight rooms. The bond isn't for very much money, and I am happy with the status quo.
Position 2.) I would love to get out of debt. However, there are certain things that are needed right now, e.g. schools for growth, seismic fixes. We don't have a system in place to take care of the current needs without additional debt. The bond is a necessary "evil", but a debt-reduction plan needs to be in place to stop the cycle right away. I am willing to make difficult decisions over the long term, but the immediate needs require bonding. I am inclined to vote for the bond, but will require the board to put a debt-reduction plan in place prior to my vote.
Position 3.) Debt is a huge problem, and I am willing to make the extremely difficult decisions necessary to combat the debt. Without drawing a line in the sand, I am afraid the cycle will never be broken. I believe we have the necessary tools, creativity, and community-involvement to do whatever is necessary to educate our kids without adding the burden of debt onto their shoulders.
No matter where you fit on the spectrum, your voice needs to be heard in this discussion. The district will be conducting multiple meetings about the bond throughout September and October to inform you (and, unofficially, encourage you) on the necessity of the bond. Even though the bond is on the ballot, your attendance and your vocal opinion will have an impact in those meetings, as well as at the ballot box. I have 3 requests. 1) Please commit to attend at least one meeting and comment. 2) Commit to bringing 2 neighbors with you. 3) Talk with at least 2 of your friends and neighbors about this issue. (Shameless plug: have them sign up for my facebook page, blog, and/or email.)
If the bond doesn't pass, would we find creative ways to educate our kids with these limitations? Yes. Necessity is the mother of invention. Because of the layering of the debt, there is a point at which we could borrow money for projects without increasing taxes. Would we be able to do all the projects we want? No. Would we be able to prioritize and pay for some of them? Yes. Could we get creative with double sessions, more online options, and giving kids credit for extra-curricular activities they are doing already? Sure. There is never just one option. Are you, the people, willing to go through that difficult process with us so we don't need to go into debt? I await your response on Nov. 8.