Tough choice, but letís show that schools still matter

By Observer editorial April 28, 2011 02:53 pm
Ballots will go out Friday for the May 17 election. Voters in the La Grande School District are facing a difficult but major decision when they get their ballots — whether to approve a local option levy that will cost them more money, or whether to vote down the levy and force the district to make cuts. The choice isn’t easy. Times are tough. Wages for most folks are stagnant, or in many cases lower than they were a few years ago. A lot of people are still out of work. Food, gas and utility costs keep rising. Let’s face it, making ends meet is a challenge.

At the same time, we have a school district that has been forced to make substantial cuts in its budget in recent years, including a $2 million reduction in 2008-09. Another big cut would impact the quality of our children’s education.

The district is seeking approval of a five-year levy, one that would raise an estimated $900,000 a year and forestall the need for the same level of cuts. The levy would cost taxpayers an estimated 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For a home assessed at $100,000, that would be an additional $99 a year. However, property taxes for the local Education Service District will decrease by 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value this year, dropping the total tax burden to 87 cents per $1,000, or $87 a year for a $100,000 home. (The total for a $100,000 home would drop to $49 when the technology bond is retired in 2013.) Granted, with food costs rising and gas at nearly $4 a gallon, $87 is a chunk of money, and most people don’t have any extra these days.

This is where the really difficult decision comes in. It’s a decision about priorities. Quality schools are important. So are good teachers. Both make a difference in children’s lives. La Grande needs good schools — for our children’s sake and for our community’s. We can try to save ourselves the $87 a year, but what will the cost be? Or we can pinch a little more here and there, maybe find a way over the course of a year to save a few tankfuls of gas, and give our schools the money it needs to keep programs intact.

Of course the district and its staff, from the top on down, need to continue to find ways to save and to sacrifice like the rest of us are doing. Shared sacrifices are in order in both the public and private sectors.

Let’s support our schools, even if we have to scrimp a little more ourselves. Our kids are worth it. Vote yes on the La Grande schools option levy.