A majority of Re-1 taxpayers wont vote for a tax increase to fund construction of new school buildings, according to a poll conducted for the Cortez school district.
Hardly anyone should be surprised. Support for government of any kind is low, with some political factions determined to drive it lower and others proclaiming economic progress that few can feel.
Now is simply not the right time to ask for money.
Logical questions for the Re-1 to begin researching would be When will the time be right, and what projects will voters be willing to support? Asking for $40 million or more may always be a losing proposition, and the district may never again have an opportunity to combine grant funding and energy-industry taxes to minimize the burden on residents and small businesses as effectively as the failed BEST grant application would have allowed.
But the entire premise of public funding for education is that citizens are willing to pool some of their resources an affordable share to ensure that young people are prepared to be productive members of society. That means, then, that voters and taxpayers do consider some level of taxation for schools to be a wise investment.
Right now, its fashionable to say, No more, and by that some people dont mean no tax increases; they mean they want to quit funding government. Just saying no is easy for those who dont have to figure out what to do instead including, apparently, some national politicians.
Both the economy and the social structure of the United States are greatly dependent on the function of governmental agencies for which substitutes do not exist currently, at least not at any broad level. Thats certainly true of K-12 education. If tax-funded schools disappeared Aug. 1, private schools could accommodate very few new students, and few parents could muster the time or ability to educate their children themselves starting a month later. Soon the community would begin talking about the social costs of failing to educate a substantial percentage of its population.
Public education, flawed though it is, remains one of the greatest accomplishments of this nation. Without communal investment in childrens futures, upward economic and social mobility is very difficult to achieve. Most children are utterly bound by the limitations of their own families.
Paying for buildings is not, of course, the same as paying for education. Even with substantial public investment, this is probably not a community that can afford the very best for all its children. Some carefully planned less expensive substitute will have to be enough. Cortez is not Telluride, Durango, or Cherry Creek.
Cortez is also not a community that will completely forsake its children. Between those two realities a sense of responsibility and a finite budget with which to fulfill it this community must find a way to pay for what the district truly needs. Buildings dont last forever; the costs of renovating or replacing them rarely decrease. The problem belongs to the community; the solution must come from the community.
Re-1 must keep working to convince the taxpayers that the school district will be a good steward of scarce and expensive resources. Expressing surprise at the results of the recent survey is not a good way to begin.