Now is not the time
Times are uncertain and job stability is low
by RICHARD and WENDI JOHNSON
Nov 04, 2013 | 1060 views | 1 1 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now is not the time for Gilmer ISD residents to take on an additional $36 million in debt. While we can appreciate the desire for a new school and the reasoning that interest rates have never been lower, it is our opinion that the economic and political climate of our time is not conducive to this level of debt. According to the most recent US Census Bureau report, the median household income in Upshur County is $44,734 which is below both national and state averages, and 13 percent of residents are living in poverty. A recent Washington Post report stated that when adjusted for inflation, families make less money now than they did in 1989. If the $36 million bond package were to be passed, Gilmer ISD home owners, landowners and business owners would face a 21.2 percent tax rate hike and the debt of the district would more than double to over $63 million. It’s reasonable to expect that even those who rent will be affected in the way of rental increases as property owners pass this tax hike on to their renters. This bond will take 30 years to pay; meanwhile, we are still paying for the new elementary school. Before these debts are resolved, it will be time for a “new” junior high and the cycle continues. We are facing a state of perpetual bond debt as these repayment periods are stretched out to their longest possible terms.

It is clear that the high school has needs that must be addressed, but a $36 million solution is clearly not affordable for our community. Politicians and bureaucrats must stop looking to the taxpayer’s wallet as their resource for extravagant projects and programs. Our children do not need the Taj Mahal in order to receive a stellar education. Going into massive debt is not doing what’s best for the kids, but teaching them to be fiscally responsible will serve them well for the rest of their lives. It is not about keeping up with the Jones’ or giving way to over indulgence. It’s not about solving our problems the wrong way just because that’s how other communities are doing it. It’s about solving our problems within our means by thinking outside the box. It’s about meeting the needs of our children in a responsible and fiscally sound manner. Others will be drawn to our community as a result of our efforts to shore ourselves up economically, academically and socially through wise and unprecedented ideals, not because we have a really expensive school building and high property taxes. As adults, we have a responsibility to lead by example and by inspiration.

When the Apollo 13 capsule experienced serious problems during its mission, a group of engineers were given the metaphorical task of putting a “square peg into a round hole…rapidly” or men’s lives would be lost. Out of necessity and with team work and perseverance, they accomplished their task using only those meager resources available to them. Building a new school is not rocket science. Just in polite conversation, we have heard great ideas that could be explored. One was the suggestion that we use less expensive, but durable building techniques such as steel construction with an aesthetically pleasing façade. Other ideas included different remodeling and renovation techniques. Surely with community and taxpayer involvement, we can go back to the blackboard and solve our problem wisely without saddling our community with decades of debt. We can figure out how to put our “square peg into a round hole.”

Times are uncertain. Job stability and job opportunities are historically low. Cost of living expenses are high and steadily rising as we face unprecedented prices in all consumer goods as well uncertainty in rising health care and fuel costs. Many countries around the world are facing serious monetary and civil unrest. Our own country has not yet recovered from the most serious financial downturn since the Great Depression and sound economic and political decisions are still not being made. Let us be the community that wisely builds our “house upon the rock” so that as these uncertain times blow in and wreak havoc, we remain standing, even prepared to serve those who built their “house upon the sand”.





Richard and Wendi Johnson, Gilmer
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November 05, 2013
Thank you Richard and Wendi for submitting this article. I wish more people would look at the demographics of our community and realize that a new building will do more harm than good. I like the point of teaching fiscal responsibility to children rather than encouraging them to follow along with the crowd. I feel like that lesson is lost among our children today.