As a lifelong Bellevue resident I am really disappointed in the controversy and division that I have observed with the two special elections in our county and school district.
First of all is the jail issue. The jail is definitely past its prime and obviously needs either to be totally renovated or rebuilt. It is a safety and common decency issue for both those housed there as well as our law enforcement officers. I believe that anyone who visits the current building would have a totally different view on the need for a change.
I have all the respect in the world for law enforcement officers and their dedication to the members of our community. They lay their lives on the line each and every day when they put on that uniform to protect us and keep us safe. The least we could do is give them the tools needed to do their job as safely as possible.
Second, the elementary school issue, has created even more controversy. After talking to many people from both schools I found that there are many concerns, but most are afraid to publicly voice their concerns for fear of being ostracized or shouted down. That’s not fair, especially when we are all being asked to pay for a nearly $17 million facility that will take many years to pay off. With that being said, these are some of my concerns and theirs.
I agree with many people that the elementary school needs to be renovated or rebuilt. Therein lies the first problem – should it be renovated or rebuilt? Many people, including myself, don’t know whether both options have been fully considered. Also, as mentioned at the informational meeting regarding the special satellite voting location, the school is centrally located in Bellevue right now, making it safe and convenient for many students to walk to school. Therefore, that benefit should also be strongly considered.
Over fifty percent of our property taxes go to the expenses associated with the operation of the school. I have absolutely no problem with that. The problem I do have is how much of an additional burden a new facility would have on all taxpayers in our district, especially those on fixed incomes, farmers and small business owners. Some will pay less and others will pay more, but it will impact everyone to some degree. Our local businesses, as usual, will take the largest hit. They took the brunt of a local option sales tax years ago that was promised to end after ten years. What happened there? Where have those millions of dollars gone?
Another problem that arises is how some people immediately want to make this an “us versus them” issue. It is not! I have many friends at both schools and, as mentioned, I have visited with many of them on this topic, often at their request. With that being said, I really detest anyone’s suggestion that this is the reason someone might not support the bond issue.
For those of us that choose to support a religious-based school system, we know what the sacrifices that decision entails and are happy to make them. We as a school system have organized more than one capital campaign and financed it with up to five-year pledges. Everyone was invited to participate, with almost all of the money raised coming from the generous members of the past and present Marquette family. Every donation was important to us, and we did everything we could to ensure each and every dollar was spent wisely and efficiently. I believe the money spent for the new elementary school should be carefully scrutinized in the same way.
Everyone in the district has the freedom to enroll their children in either school system. The bond issue has nothing to do with one school against the other. It is just not true, so please do not try to use that as a rallying cry.
Also, I do not understand the signs that say, “ Bellevue Votes Yes”. This inflames the whole issue, making it more controversial than it already is. We are all Bellevue, not just those voting yes. As with any election, all voters should have the right to openly discuss and debate an important issue like this before having their ballot cast for them in the court of public opinion.
The most overused phrase I see in the paper each week is that the facility is “for the future of our students.” Of course it is, but so is having a safe jail that allows our law enforcement officers to better protect our students. So is allowing small business owners and consumers to spend less in taxes and more on the local economy, creating future jobs for our students. An eight million dollar facility would not serve our youth as well as a sixteen million dollar facility would? At a time when money is tight for many of the people that will ultimately be responsible for paying for the school, I think there should be a greater focus on maximizing taxpayer dollars with a safe and efficient learning facility with a common-sense price tag.
So, to reiterate that last point, for me as well as many others, it really comes down to the price tag. We are not building a college campus here, but rather pre-k through 5th grade that should focus solely on safety and providing a strong learning environment, without some of the luxurious, yet unnecessary amenities being highlighted in the plan. Could a very nice facility be built for half the amount suggested? I would certainly think so. Less upkeep, less taxes, less controversy.