Note: In my blogs #3 and #13 of October 15 & 25, we discussed the importance of taking advantage of an unprecedented multimillion dollar investment in replacing three high schools and one elementary school, all dedicated in August 2009 plus remodeling of others in the two school districts of Gallia County. That is making that investment pay off by utilizing the new facilities effectively. In blog #3 we also described the euphoria of winning the voter approval of a tax levy that the state of Ohio required to match part of the state's investment. Over the years, the voters had rejected several similar levies. One reason for the euphoria after the polls closed on November 8, 2005 was that citizens from all sectors of the community were united and campaigned so hard for the tax levy. The following is my contribution to that campaign. Perhaps one of our readers might find the article useful for a similar campaign in his or her community.
THE SCHOOL TAX LEVY: SMALL SACRIFICE, HUGE RETURN
Two years ago, I sent my daughter to Gallia Academy to begin Junior High. We were satisfied with the teachers, but the physical conditions resembled in some ways what I saw in the Third World during my 14 years of teaching in Peru (South America). Her home room was the gym and her study hall was the back of the auditorium. In addition, the temperature was 100 degrees. I quickly transferred her to Southwestern.
This coming Tuesday, the voters of Gallia County will make their most important decision in years…..a decision that will affect the economy of Gallia County for the rest of the 21st Century. It will affect the future of our children and their children’s children after most of us are long gone. What kind of legacy will we leave to posterity? A myopic short sighted view that will leave us among the most underdeveloped counties of Ohio OR a magnanimous and generous investment in our precious human resources that will ultimately generate greater individual incomes and a more prosperous Gallia County? It takes sacrifice and money to make money.
No longer can we count on the mines, tobacco, and small farms, but rather on well educated people, especially in the technical areas, to develop our county and compete for the best jobs. The development of our human resources is the key to economic development and a higher standard of living. That can be done most effectively in modern educational facilities through dedicated and well prepared teachers backed by supportive parents. In some cases renovation is ruled out as a lower cost alternative because it is cheaper to build a new school than to fix it as determined by the Ohio Department of Education.
The Sacrifice. In Gallia County, the average home (about $75,000 market value) will be assessed an additional 55 cents per day or $200 per year, the cost of a TV set. This is smaller than the previous school levies that did not pass. Our county property taxes will still remain among the lowest in Ohio. In addition, the Homestead Exemption reduces property taxes for certain low income owners.
The levy would cover roughly one third of the total cost of the new schools and remodeling. The State of Ohio would pay the rest ($33 million) for the city schools and the power plants would absorb most of the burden for the county school district. Furthermore, the Holzer Hospital and Clinic have volunteered to contribute $1 million for each school district because they have a vested interest in the product of our schools. Can we afford to pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity and to effectively give away $34 million to a more forward looking community?
The Return on our Investment will be substantial.
- Our Children Deserve the Best. The modernization of our schools will be a giant step forward.
- Enhanced Economic Development. The key is the development of our human resources, i.e., education.
- Better Prepared High School Graduates would do better on the ACTs and SATs. That would mean our graduates would more likely be accepted in the top universities with greater chances for obtaining scholarships. Furthermore, they would do better in the colleges they choose. As a professor of Business at the University at the University of Rio Grande, I found it difficult to advance and teach in depth with students who had poor high school foundations. Thus poor primary and secondary schools affect the effectiveness of our colleges.
- Better Jobs go to those with a good education. If we do not have qualified people here, employers will look elsewhere and import better prepared employees from out of state and abroad.
- New Industry; More and Better Jobs. Many communities compete to attract companies to expand into their areas. Gallia County would have a definite competitive advantage with new and well equipped schools along with dedicated teachers. New industry breeds a multiplier effect as new and better jobs bring higher incomes which in turn bring more business to local establishments which then must hire more people. An important consideration for such companies in their investment decision is good schools for the children of the managers and technicians they bring in or recruit. For the long run, they count on a flow of well educated people to replace employees who retire or leave. Our Industrial Park has been growing at a snail’s pace. In the short run, there will certainly be more construction jobs.
- A Brake on the Brain Drain. More of our best and the brightest raised in this area will stay here if the local economy develops and we have better schools. Many of our newly graduated teachers, especially in math and the sciences, doctors, and others will pass up jobs elsewhere and stay in the area..
- Better Health Care. The local clinics, hospitals, labs, nursing homes, etc. need well prepared people coming from our schools. Furthermore, it is difficult for them to attract good doctors who demand good schools for their children. For example, a dermatologist is nowhere to be found for Holzer Clinic.
- Increased Value of Our Homes. Property values are generally higher in areas with good schools and modern facilities.
Gallia County has a tremendous potential and the new schools together with their modernization will be a giant step for achieving it. Can we afford not to pass the levy? Please vote and vote YES to help our schools catch up to the 21st Century. The next two or three generations are counting on us the same as we depended upon the sacrifices of the generations which preceded us.