, Muskogee, OK

December 17, 2010

Building issues remain at Hilldale

— Voters in the Hilldale School District have spoken — and there is no doubting the message.

This week, the voters overwhelmingly turned down a  $20.9 million bond proposal, which would have built a new high school, a new elementary cafeteria and remodeled the high school for use as a middle school.

The voters’ reason  for defeating the bond package is clear — the cost is just too high.

The price of the improvements would have been an increase of nearly $40 per every $100 in property taxes paid.

In good economic times, a 40 percent increase in any tax would be tough to swallow. In a bad economy, when people are being forced to make do with less and less, that much of an increase would be considered a hardship to many.

The district will attempt to do the best it can with what it has, says Superintendent D.B. Merrill.

However, the concerns Merrill and school board felt were important enough to take before voters remain.

The district sought expansion to alleviate any possible overcrowding.

That concern remains and will get worse without a new high school and expansion of other buildings.

By law, the district would not have been able to ask for more than $4.3 million in one bond — any more would have exceeded the cap created by the value of properties in the district.

The district felt the amount of work needed exceeded $4.3 million.

So, instead of asking for one bond at a time, the district asked voters to approve a series of bonds.

Passing a series of bonds would have ensured the district had the necessary funds to complete a high school and other projects now, without waiting and hoping the voters would approve additional $4.3 million bonds in future elections.

It was the only reasonable way to complete the work.

Trying to build a $12 million high school would have taken 12 years to complete one bond at a time. And, there is no guarantee future voters would have continued to fund the project.

Trying to pass one bond every four years would have cost taxpayers approximately the same property tax increase, but cost the district much more in interest and provided less bang for the buck when adjusted for inflation.

The district had no choice but to ask for a series of bonds.

Now, if the residents of Hilldale want a thriving school district, they must find a way to fund it.