Pioneer Editorial: Keep education quality high, vote 'yes' on Tuesday
Bemidji School District voters have a tough choice on Tuesday when they go to the polls to vote on whether to increase their property taxes for a new elementary school.
The issue boils down to quality of life and giving the elementary schools room to breathe. Those who oppose the referendum cite economic concerns, choice of location or want school officials to explore other options.
However, the district has been prudent in its approach. Supporters of a new $13 million elementary school aim to ease overcrowding at the K-5 grade levels, when smaller class sizes and interaction between teacher and student are paramount for learning.
Officials sought public opinion by hosting four public meetings, a process aimed at narrowing the six options available. The end result was the proposal now on the table: an elementary school built on district property using the same architectural plans as Lincoln Elementary. Both moves are cost-saving measures and allow construction to be completed within 13 months - in time for the building to open for the start of the 2013 school year.
In addition, building now allows the district to capitalize on competitive bids and historically low interest rates.
For many, the economic recession has been a heavy burden. Choosing to raise one's property taxes at a time when budgets are tight isn't an easy choice.
But to the school board's credit, they've made decisions to make building a new school as cost-efficient as possible while addressing a serious space crunch.
Safe, quality schools with manageable class sizes facilitate education and opportunity.
Bemidji school enrollment trends show no apparent slowing in growth as birth rates point to annual increases of more than 60 students in each of the next five years. That's more than 300 new children attending our schools. Plus, the community is growing at about 14 percent.
Taxpayers who own a home valued at $100,000 can expect to pay an additional $15 per year under the current district proposal. That's equivalent to less than a cup of coffee or a soda per month - a small price to pay to provide our children with a quality learning environment.
If voters approve Tuesday's referendum, school boundary lines will change. Regardless, district officials likely would have to redraw them if it were to fail in an effort to address over-crowding.
The proposal before voters looks forward, provides the quickest relief for students crammed into tight spaces and considers the economic burdens facing district patrons.
Considering the benefits and alternatives, the choice is clear: Vote "yes" on Tuesday.