Letter to the editor – Paul Quam

To the editor,
Following are some thoughts that are going through my mind as I contemplate my vote on the school bond issue.

• Waukee just passed a $117,000,000, with an enrollment of approximately 10,000 students, or about $11,700 per student.  We are looking at a $35,480,000 project with an enrollment of 1,000 students, or $35,480 per student, or a little over 300 percent of what Waukee approved. Dropping back to the $21,480,000 for the bond issue equals $21,480 per student or still 183 percent of what Waukee has committed to.

• The Iowa Report Card rating for our district is as follows. The elementary school received an “excellent” rating, the highest rating possible. The middle and high school received an “acceptable” rating. There are six rating classifications, so our grade school was rated in the first tier, and our middle and high school in the fourth tier out of six. All of Waukee’s schools were ranked in the top three classifications. There is a principle in management that suggests that the last thing you want to do with entities that are not being managed at optimal levels, is to give them more to manage.

• The Iowa Central Community College just passed their own $25,000,000 bond issue, a portion of which is our district’s responsibility. It is to be used for facilities and training in the trades. In our district 401 persons voted, or approximately 7 percent of the eligible voters, and 157 of those votes were not in favor of the bond issue. The participation in the vote in the other eight districts making up the community college district was also very small. What does that say about the regional commitment to the cause?

• I don’t feel it is our responsibility to provide brick and mortar for the community college, and in particular, when we are expected to make a 20-year commitment, and they make a 10-year commitment, ad in particular when ours represents all fixed expense, and theirs to a greater degree represents variable expense.

• If this proposal were to pass, what portion of the tuition paid by out-of-district students would be required to go toward debt service on the bond?

• Supporters indicate the passing of the bond issue would increase property tax approximately 10 percent on an acre of ag land. That translates to an increase in the breakeven point for any crop produced on that land for the next 20 years. Corn and bean production has struggled to make the breakeven point the last several years, with this year holding the same prospect at this point. I can’t envision any tax worthy of a 10 percent increase, but in particular one imposed on the district’s largest enterprise. Increasing property tax on other properties and in particular homes is of equal concern, in particular for young homeowners and those on fixed incomes. The current inflation rate is approximately 2.2 percent, and proponents are proposing a 10 percent increase in taxes? Are any of us anticipating a 10 percent increase in our property values soon?

• Are the Greene County supervisors and Grow Greene County willing and able to pledge $9,500,00 to the Paton-Churdan School District?

• This community recently committed to a $20,000,000 hospital project, predominantly financed with debt. The city of Jefferson has committed to a six-figure expenditure for airport expansion so they can facilitate planes with up to a 72-foot wing span, $1,400,000 on the overpass, etc. Who is keeping the community balance sheet? Each project comes with its supporters offering rational and rationalization. How many dollars and how much debt are needed in an effort to buy prosperity?

• “Follow the Money.” I haven’t experienced such a persistent and intense effort to mold my thinking since having gone through basic training after being drafted into the Army. Billboards, professionally produced videos, web pages, yard signs, full page ads and slick mailers. I have to admire the effort, but I fear there is a lot of self-serving institutional money funding the full court press.

• The school district already owns 41.72 acres at the present high school location, and the footprint of the proposed career academy is 20,000 square feet. The career academy would represent a hair over 1 percent of the present high school site. Surely one cold fine room on already-owned land to accommodate the new facility. How do we justify owning another 80 acres along with the multiple sites already owned? We wouldn’t need 80 acres to build the proposed buildings. Could it be that this is part of a veiled agenda to build the sport complex that some have sought for some time? If that were to be the case, this would require more money beyond the current proposal. The more sites involved, the more operational expense the district incurs on an on-going basis.

Education has been good to my family. My wife is an RN, I have a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance, and we have three children, all with graduate degrees. I am all four educational opportunities in all forms.

I am also for being financially responsible. Let’s realize full benefit from the resources we already have, incorporate some of the good offerings in this present bond proposal, but move forward with a proposal that makes less debt as part of the future we offer our kids.

Thanks for your consideration.

Paul M. Quam, Jefferson

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