NEWS

Kent Bush: Additional tax burden -- cost or investment?

Kent Bush

One person's luxury is another's necessity. It's all about perception.

In Augusta, voters will decide in May whether a $48 million bond issue is a wasteful elevation in their tax burden or a necessary step to prepare the school district for inevitable growth.

Obviously, even financed over 25 years with a significant amount of matching funds from the state, $48 million is a lot of money.

But whether the additional tax burden is determined to be a cost or investment will be the difference between a successful bond issue and a trip back to the drawing board.

Benjamin Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

Building two new elementary schools and upgrading or updating every other facility in the district is a significant investment.

It is hard to imagine a scenario in which Augusta would not continue to develop as a bedroom community for people who work in Wichita. Urban flight has changed Andover from a crossroads to a major suburb. Augusta is only a few miles down the road, and we are already feeling the effects.

Is it unreasonable to believe that parents would move to Augusta to place their children in a school district in which all elementary schools reached a Standard of Excellence and where test scores match up with any district in Kansas?

Waiting to invest in new schools until after the population doubles is like waiting to stop smoking until doctors have already found cancer in your lungs. By then, it is already too late to do anything about it.

The price is high. But Superintendent Jim Lentz said, "The price will never be any better than it is right now."

Lentz acknowledged that the 25-year repayment term is a concern to everyone. Some of the projects that are completed with the funds will have to be revisited before these bonds are paid off.

Are two new schools needed? Are the other projects important to successfully educating Augusta students?

The total price for all projects considered at the three discussion sessions sponsored by the school board would have been $70 million. The $48 million figure is a pared-down number. No one thinks it will be an easy decision to approve this plan.

"The school board is making a bold move and I am proud of them," Lentz said.

He'll be more proud if the voters go along for the ride.

Every Augusta resident should take the time to carefully consider the impacts $48 million would have on the local economy and the school district.

No matter the result of the election, the outcome will be a turning point for Augusta.

Augusta Gazette