EDITORIAL: MARION SCHOOL, PATRONS SHOULD GET THIS DONE
Bond issues can be contentious and are often difficult to pass. That’s because they include a tax increase, an unpopular prospect particularly when agricultural land is involved. Voters in the Freeman School District famously shot down six bond issues for a new school in the late 1960s and early 1970s before finally approving a proposal that led to construction of the junior-senior high school in 1974-75.
On the flip side, in 2008 Freeman School District voters OK’d a bond measure on just one vote — by 72% — that gave the go-ahead for construction of a new elementary school, which opened the following year.
Both of these bond issues and subsequent votes come to mind on the shoulders of a proposed school building project in Marion, Freeman closest neighbor to the northeast. While the school board in that community hasn’t taken official action, it appears to be moving in that direction and it’s probable that district voters will be asked to approve a bond election in the foreseeable future.
Based on information shared at a special meeting on Monday, the Marion School Board is proposing a three-phase master plan that would vastly improve the cobbled-together campus currently used by the district. Officials are putting a priority on Phase 1 and Phase 2, which would be the bulk of the project and, as proposed, would cost $11.5 million.
While more than half of that would be funding by cash on hand and capital outlay certificates — which do not require an increase in taxes — the district will likely be asking voters to approve a bond issue that would raise taxes. Depending on where the final numbers end up, that bond would be between $5.9 and $6.9 million, according to information shared by CO-OP Architecture at Monday’s meeting.
More information will be forthcoming at a second special meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, and the board could take official action at their regular monthly meeting the following week.
School leadership deserves credit for taking this bold step, and the public should get behind this critical project, even if it means an increase in taxes.
In most small towns, a vibrant school is one of the biggest assets and can often make or break a community. When a school goes, it is said, so goes the town.
It may not be that cut and dried, but that’s not far off, and it stands to reason that is on the minds of administration and school board members in Marion. It should be on the mind of the larger public, as well, whether they’ve got skin in the game — kids in the district — or not.
The health and well-being of our youth, regardless of where we live, should be paramount when it comes to attention and support. And falling in favor of a bond election that would vastly improve the security, safety, efficiency, aesthetics, and overall physical condition of a school certainly goes a long way toward that end.
Passage of the bond could be huge for a Marion community looking to solidify its place in rural South Dakota and set itself up for success in the years and decades to come.
Nobody likes a tax burden, but when it is designed to benefit the youth of the community specifically and the well-being of the community generally, it is clearly the right thing to do.
After all, if district patrons can’t get behind something designed to benefit their kids and the town of which they are part — even if it’s by proxy — what is there to ever get behind?
The Marion School Board should put the bond issue before voters ASAP and voters should approve it. There’s too much to lose otherwise.