'No' voters speak out against ECP issue

Some Elmore City residents still have questions about a school bond issue soon going before voters that has them leaning toward a no vote.

Calling it a nasty campaign, especially for the opposition, Paula Cassell thinks ECP school officials should be more focused on needs rather than wants.

As for Terry Richardson, one of the big problems with the issue set for a Sept. 10 election is the burden it places on low-income landowners in the EC area who he says can't afford the tax increase that comes with the issue.

On the other side is ECP Superintendent Jennifer Cruz, who says voters do have a choice with the issue split into two separate propositions.

She is also inviting landowners with concerns to contact her so she can help them figure out the exact tax increase they would be paying, which Cruz says is likely not as bad as some may believe.

Cassell said she's among a group of EC residents who have been talking and meeting for some time discussing their opposition to this second school bond issue in this 2019 calendar year.

“You've got people who vote no to anything if it's going to raise taxes by a penny. We're not that,” Cassell said.

“Our position is we should address our needs not our wants. Let's focus on what we need. Then get what we need and maintain it.

“Different people have different concerns about this.”

This past March a bond issue for ECP voters fell only a handful of votes short of the 60 percent margin needed for passage.

Now voters in the school district must decide the fate of an issue that has two propositions totaling nearly $19.5 million in a series over 18 years. It includes an initial 13 ½ percent property tax increase overall.

Both Cassell and Richardson have concerns about the bonds, the length of the issue and the tax increase being too much for some landowners.

“The bonds, how they work, the kind of burden this will have on the taxpayers, especially those with a lot of land who just can't afford a tax increase like this one,” Cassell said.

“I know people who have a lot of land but live on food stamps and simply can't afford a tax increase like this one.

“A large percentage of big landowners will wind up paying the brunt of the tax increase,” Richardson said.

“For many of them the land is tied up in a trust. The land's value is on paper and not fluid. Many of them are on fixed incomes. They're downplaying the 13 ½ percent tax increase, but for many people, they're on fixed incomes and can't afford it.

“Personally it doesn't affect me, but I've talked to a lot of people who have asked me to express their opinion,” he adds.

The two local residents agree most folks they've talked to support the idea of funding a new high school building.

The problem, they say, is with so many other projects added to the overall issue making the tax increase just a bit too big.

“The kids do deserve the things they need to have a good education,” Cassell said.

“This would pass if they got it down to a reasonable amount. Had they presented the high school for about four or five million everyone would be for this.”

Richardson also believes the solution is to do fewer projects at once spreading them out over time.

“There's no doubt we need a new school, but we need to do it in moderation,” said Richardson.

•••

Cruz tells the PV Democrat she doesn't believe the situation is as dire as some may think for landowners on fixed incomes.

“I think some scare tactics have been used,” Cruz said. “We want to show people this can be managed.

“It's going to make my house payment go up, but I understand there's a need. At times I've got to make sacrifices and I'm willing to make that sacrifice for the good of the community.

“I think some people are being told their taxes are going up dramatically and they don't really understand the process. We can help you figure out your taxes and probably show it won't be as bad as you thought.”

She calls the issue's tax increase a “one-time bump” as the chances are good it will go down over time.

As for the concerns with so many projects and a tax increase that's too big, Cruz says that's why this issue is split into two propositions – to give voters the choice to choose one proposition but not the other if that's how they feel.

The first proposition is almost all for a new high school with a small portion going to add a math and science lab at ECP's middle school and pave the elementary parking lot. It totals $8.1 million and projects a tax increase of 5 percent.

The second proposition totals $11.3 million with an 8.5 percent tax hike and is meant to fund a new gym, improvements to the Badger football field and ag barn and calls for new band instruments.

“We broke it up because we wanted people to have a choice.”

This Week's Circulars