Guest Column: Two bonds or not two bonds, those are the questions
October 12, 2017 · Todd Nelson, Lisbon Facilities committee president
My apologies for the Shakespearean reference in the headline, but it seems appropriate given that we are considering an auditorium as one of the projects. I shouldn't joke. A bond vote is serious. It is a 20-year tax issue.
The Lisbon Facility Committee is considering putting two questions to voters:
The first question would allow the School to keep the current bond tax in place and would raise approximately $5.9 million. A "yes" vote would not change property taxes.
The second question would allow an increase in taxes and would raise an approximate additional $3.1 million for a total of $9 million. A "yes" vote would increase taxes as follows:
• A $200,000 home by approximately $10-$12 per month
• A $200,000 farm by approximately $10 per month
• A $200,000 commercial property by approximately $20 per month.
Currently, the Facilities Committee has an estimated $8.83 million of projects from an initial list of 37 projects. The $8.83 million are those projects the Committee sees as needs (not wants), that it would like to recommend completing if money were available. The three "large" projects are: 1. School upgrades (i.e. classrooms, hallways, secure entrances, ADA upgrades, windows and climate control); 2. An auditorium; 3. A track. There are several other "smaller" projects, including land acquisition, lighting and boiler upgrades, and more.
The committee gathered a list of possible projects from several sources. These sources included the facilities director recommendations, the School Board, the Administration, Teachers, Coaches, and staff, and by touring the facilities ourselves to determine a proposed list. Then, we have investigated each of those potential projects to consider alternatives, dollars, priority, wants vs. needs, and if the project makes sense when considered with the other projects, and to avoid duplication, or spending money that doesn't make long-term sense. I applaud and thank the committee for the hours of meetings and hours of "homework" they have done to make some very tough decisions.
'I'm the wrong guy'
I'm a simple person. I have a finance and accounting background. My world either operates in the black, or in the red. (No pun intended to Lisbon School colors - but it fits). I don't like taxes. When I was asked to join the Facilities Committee, I thought, "They asked the wrong guy because I'm generally opposed to all taxes." I thought, "Surely, we can find a way to do more with less."
My mind has changed. Please consider these three points: 1. The current high school science room was built in 1964; 2. The "stage" being used as our current auditorium was built in 1939; 3. Lisbon has no track.
The committee has determined its top priorities are educational needs, smart long-term capital, including room for the school to grow, and filling voids that are needs. The committee believes the science room and those other similar projects are obvious. The committee also believes land acquisition, an auditorium, and track are also needs, not wants. For example, speech classes and performances, speaking or performing in front of any audience (think of your boss or work committees), working as a team, working toward goals, and much, much more are all very educational in my opinion. A track also has long-term health benefit opportunities for the entire community.
The committee believes if you come see the same things we saw, and look at the homework the committee has done, you might either agree, or offer other suggestions to consider. The committee wants to consider all information, options, and come up with the best solution.
We need your help: needs vs. wants
Lisbon schools is a stable, 1A and 2A school. Enrollment is steady, and projects to be steady. There is room for some limited growth in the near-term. While the school board, administration, faculty and staff have done a nice job keeping the school fiscally responsible (they are going to be paying-off the current bond early), there no other funding sources to pay for these types of projects. A bond is the only option if the community ultimately agrees with the Facilities Committee that these projects are needs (not wants).
Please consider coming out to take a tour of the school in order to see the projects the Facilities Committee is considering and to provide your input. We desperately need and want your input.
Tours are scheduled for the night of the Soup Supper (Oct. 20) from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the nights of parent teacher conferences (Oct. 24 and 26) from 4 to 8 p.m. Additionally, there will be a second community informational meeting and tours Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.
If you decide to come take the tour, we ask you to imagine you are a young parent deciding where you want to live and send your kids to school. Then ask yourself the question: "How do some of our facilities in Lisbon stack-up?"
You know what is best for your situation. You know what is best for your kid(s) or your grandkid(s). Taxes impact people differently. Every person's financial situation is different. Everyone may have different opinions about whether the projects being considered are wants vs. needs, and whether they are worthy of tax dollars funding them. We respectfully request your presence, your input, and your ideas. Agree or disagree, but especially disagree. We want to hear it.
After all, this is serious. It about the kids, their education and well-being. It is long-term. It's about taxes for 20 years. I would tell you this is a 20-year decision...
However, given that our performance stage is almost 80 years old and in need of repairs and upgrades, our science room was built before man landed on the moon (think about that), other areas of our middle school and high school were built in 1955 and 1964, respectively (more than 50 and 60 years old), and Lisbon has not had a track, it seems like I'd be lying to you to tell you it is only a 20-year decision.
In fact, this will impact our community for generations. Please come provide input.
Lisbon Community Schools Facilities Committee chair