On Jan. 28 the final decision will be made by the community on whether or not to spend more than $67 million dollars on USD 250.
The Morning Sun Editorial Board deliberated on what position to take for several weeks, hearing from both pro and con factions within the district.
We find ourselves split.
None of us object to a bond issue, although part of the board was unconvinced this was the right bond issue. Even those of us opposed to the bond issue were reluctant to oppose — it is clear something needs to be done.
On the pro side, this bond issue touches all schools. Every building in the district needs repairs and improvements, and this would do so.
In particular we were impressed with the way it meets the needs of Pittsburg High School. One can also not discount the safety aspects. Joplin in 2011 and Baxter Springs in 2014 brought home in the most graphic way that it can happen here. All of us know someone who was touched by a tornado. It’s hard to say “we’re not for safe rooms.”
That said, we also had concerns.
A 2005 University of Wisconsin survey noted the No. 1 thing site selectors look at when determining where to locate a business is the tax and regulatory environment within a city. Those of us opposed note that property taxes in Kansas are already the highest in the region and Missouri is just six miles away. The concern is that additional taxes will stifle economic development in a community which is — finally — beginning to get back on it’s feet.
We also noted that Crawford County is, depending upon which metric is used, either the poorest or second poorest county in Kansas. When many people are struggling to make ends meet — and even to put food on the table — we are concerned that tax increases and the concomitant increases in rent will make this even more difficult.
The bottom line is that there are good and sufficient reasons to vote both for and against this bond issue. No one denies something needs to be done, but people of goodwill on both sides can disagree on whether or not this is the right project.
For that reason we, the editorial board — Patrick Richardson, Phil Burgert, Patty Horgan, Larry Fields and Paul Zagorski — decline to suggest to anyone how they should vote. You must decide that for yourself.