Vail Daily column: A look at pros, cons for 3B
October 18, 2016
Last week, I relayed the pro and con statements submitted for the school district's election question 3A, which is a mill levy override and used for ongoing operational expenses. This week, I'll do the same for question 3B, which is a bond measure used for construction.
As a public employee, I am prohibited from advocating for or against anything on the ballot. However, as the superintendent of our community school system, I do have a responsibility to inform the public on matters related to our schools, and this includes the two election questions Eagle County Schools has on the ballot this fall, known as 3A and 3B. When discussing these, I am bound by law to provide a factual and balanced perspective.
To ensure the aforementioned factual and balanced perspective, I will rely on language submitted to the district for inclusion in the voter guide, which Eagle County voters should have recently received in the mail.
District staff was tasked with summarizing the pro and con arguments for questions 3A and 3B into statements of 500 words or less. In all, the district received 10 pro statements and 2 con statements for questions 3A and 3B.
Statement Pro 3B
The pro-3B statement asks for your "yes" vote and highlights areas of improvement noted in the ballot question. These include:
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• Improving school safety and security district-wide, including secure entrances and safety equipment.
• Provide students with relevant, updated instructional technology.
• Replace outdated roofs, heating, plumbing, and other critical repair backlogs, extending the useful life of existing facilities and improving energy efficiency.
• Add classrooms and other learning spaces at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum to address rapid enrollment growth and allow for expansion of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and career/technical programs.
• Fund renovation and reconstruction at Eagle Valley Middle School, Eagle Valley Elementary School, Red Sandstone Elementary School and Red Canyon High School in Eagle to accommodate student population growth and comparable learning environments.
The pro-3B statement says Colorado's public education funding is the 47th lowest and state legislators help from the state Legislature is not on the way. It's going to take a local investment. The pro-3B statement says well-funded schools are an investment that pays dividends, protecting property values and strengthening local economic development.
The pro-3B statement says the School Board carefully winnowed its wish list to fund only the most critical projects and expenses. With interest rates at historic lows, and construction costs on the rise, it makes sense to address these improvements sooner rather than later.
The pro-3B statement addresses the tax impact, noting an increase of $1.44 per month ($17.28 annually) per $100,000 of a home's actual value.
The pro-3B statement says student population is growing, our schools are full to overflowing, and we cannot keep pace with demand for classrooms, teachers, technology, facilities maintenance and related needs.
The pro-3B statement asks you to vote "yes" on the issue 3B because it positions our local students, schools and communities for a strong future.
Statement Con 3B
The con-3B statement was identical to the con-3A statement, which was covered last week.
It says that schools use an outdated and expensive business model and could instead use technology and video lectures, eliminating the need for individual teachers to make lesson plans and saving on costs and time that would allow for more individual help to students.
The con-3B statement also says that many prominent business leaders believe and fund free education models that will produce better results and that by eliminating education our expenditures we could reduce the national debt and property taxes.
The con-3B statement indicates passing this question will result in a new financial crisis, similar to 2008, due to increased taxes and fees along with rising interest rates.
The con-3B statement also says that the school district should live within its means, the district can find the money it needs in its existing budget, and that passage will ruin your children's future with increased housing costs.
The con-3B statement says that the school board is not to be trusted and intentionally misleads, saying one thing and reporting another to the Colorado Department of Education.
The statement continues to say Eagle County teachers are paid more than adequately given how little time they work, that class sizes are relatively low, that teacher turnover is not a problem, and that the superintendent makes too much money.
Looking at just the arguments submitted relative to 3B, the con statement acknowledges that maybe improvements for Red Sandstone and Eagle Valley High School can be justified, for around $40 million. However, asking for huge tax increases and long-term debt of $250 million or more is ludicrous.
The con-3B statement asks that you vote "no" on this issue and ask the tax increase proponents to spell out exactly what huge tax increases will be spent on.
Colorado's system of government relies heavily on "direct democracy," meaning that citizens get to vote on important matters such as these. I encourage you to be an informed and engaged citizen on this issue, apply your critical thinking skills, and vote accordingly.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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