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It’s worth the cost

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By The Staff

Marion County citizens have heard about the recallable nickel for more than a year. It’s clear that proponents and opponents of the “nickel” see this issue in markedly different ways. For opponents, the nickel is yet another tax on an already overtaxed population. For supporters, the nickel is an investment in local schools and an opportunity to make even greater strides to improve our educational system. No matter what side you are on, we hope when you go to the polls Nov. 4, you base your decision on facts, not fear. Here’s what we know: • If voters approve the nickel, their taxes will go up by 5.6 cents for each $100 of taxable property. The actual value of the “nickel,” which is determined by state officials, fluctuates based on how many people pay their taxes on time. • You will get a supplemental tax bill if the nickel passes. • And yes, the nickel will be incorporated into the tax rate for Marion County Public Schools for many years to come. • The nickel also has the potential to generate more than $900,000 in extra revenue for the school board. Roughly half of that money would be raised locally, and the other half would come from state funds. However, this election could be the district’s last chance to receive state equalization for the recallable nickel. Nothing is guaranteed after this year. • The nickel will open the doors to new educational opportunities. More classroom space means room to conduct experiments in science classrooms, to work on computer skills and to train students in technical skills, such as robotics and automation. • And the nickel will make schools safer for faculty, staff, students and visitors. We realize that for some people, the extra nickel will mean a greater sacrifice than it will for others, but that’s true of any tax. We also recognize that new buildings cannot in and of themselves make students better learners or teachers better teachers. But a building with outdated electrical and plumbing systems can be a hindrance to learning. If a school does not have the proper wiring to power computers, Internet connections and robots, then students at those schools won’t have the chance to learn those skills before they enter the workforce. Every day, automation and computers become more and more ingrained in our assembly and production process locally, nationally and globally. To get jobs, these are skills our students will need. We realize that some people believe that the district would have the resources to spend on building improvements if only local officials had been more judicious with their spending. We respectfully disagree. In our view, local officials have tried their best with the resources they have available to meet the educational needs of local students. When 75 percent of the district’s expenditures go toward salaries and benefits and the bulk of the remaining funds are designated for specific uses either by federal or state mandates, there isn’t much flexibility within the budget.  The school board could lay-off teachers, but that would further exaggerate the overcrowding issues that already exist. Another option is to allow our schools to fall into such poor condition that the state steps in to save the buildings (as what happened in a nearby school district recently). But ask yourself, would you want your children or grandchildren to be in those buildings every day? We think it is better for students, for teachers and for our community to have students attend schools capable of meeting the demands of a 21st century education. We can’t promise that a new building will make learning easier, but it will open the door to greater learning opportunities. These are hard times for most Americans, and we know that asking people to voluntarily raise their own taxes is asking a lot. But we hope when everything is considered, you will vote yes to the recallable nickel Nov. 4.