Letter to the Editor

Bond Q's and A's

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dear Editor,

Hitchcock County Schools Proposed Bond

There is some misinformation concerning the bond issue that is floating around that needs to be brought to the attention of the voters of Hitchcock County:

1. "If this bond fails the board automatically will rerun another bond to put everything in Culbertson." I believe we have put forth the best option and we have been guided by the majority of the people. The majority said cut down the price tag, and we did so. In the unfortunate case that this bond fails we will revisit the process and see why it failed. There are other options available and we will revisit them and the process if this is not approved. One facility done properly would save roughly $36,000 a year in staffing. Utility costs would be the same since you are heating and cooling the same square footage. Is $4,000,000 more worth a savings of $36,000 a year? We are voting on a 24.5 cent levy increase for two sites. One facility would be a levy increase of 36.9 cents per hundred dollars valuation. Is one site cheaper?

2. "If this bond fails and our schools are shut down we will pay no taxes." You will pay taxes regardless. Worst case scenario, we do nothing. 10 years from now we are shut down and the state comes in and reorganizes our land to corresponding school districts. They see that three-fourths of our kids go to McCook so they decide where the taxes go. McCook's school levy is already much higher than ours. Bottom line is your school taxes won't go away.

3. "We won't have any kids 20 years from now going to school." What I can tell you is that our numbers are great. We are one of the most stable school districts in the area. Our average class size is 17-20. Pre-kindergarten numbers look great. Trenton and Culbertson both gained citizens in the 2010 census. How many rural towns can boast that? I wish I could predict the future and give a guaranteed answer, but it does look optimistic.

4. "Why don't we build one large school out in the middle for all the rural towns?" The board contacted other school districts when we started this process, and no one was interested in joining us.

5. "What if the State devalues some irrigated ground? I'm worried I'll have to pay extra taxes to make up for that." Good question, I had to call the MRNRD and assessor to find the answer for this. The NRD has a retirement plan for irrigated land and owner participation has been minimal at most. As far as mandating retirement of irrigated land it is voluntary at present. Irrigated land for 2011 is taxed at $1275/acre, dryland at $710/acre. If irrigated land is retired it won't bring in as much money but it is still on the tax roll. The affect is minimal.

I hope this information helps voters get educated and understand what they hearing from the opposition. I have had the opportunity to listen and talk to a lot of people. I stand by the fact that this configuration is the best for the kids. Finally, ask a student what they think, their opinions do matter. We the community, and board are responsible for preparing our youth for the future.

Mike Baker,

Hitchcock County board member,

parent, and taxpayer

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