Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Usually on the verge of a school bond election, the local newspaper of the school district where the vote is scheduled is filled with photos of leaking roofs, overcrowded classrooms, fire hazards and other evils that are used to urge voters to approve the issuing of bonds.

No such pictures have appeared in the Plain Talk in recent weeks. Vermillion High School, constructed in the 1960s, certainly doesn't pose the hazards of many older schools in the state � some which have fallen into such disrepair that they had to be replaced in recent years.

No attempts to play on the sympathies of school district voters have to be made. Let's face it. Students who attend Vermillion High School are attending classes in a well-designed, well-maintained structure.

And they are excelling. In its lifetime here, the present Vermillion High School building has produced some of the top scholars, top musicians, top athletic teams, etc. in the state. Quality remains a trademark of the Vermillion School District.

So why expand the Vermillion High School by building a new gymnasium, a new auditorium, a new commons and a larger library?

To appropriately answer this question, one must fully explore two important areas: 1. the project's burden on taxpayers in the school district, and 2. areas of education at Vermillion High School that are being negatively affected by certain aspects of the present building.

When one reviews past news stories about school bond issues that have failed in other districts, it's apparent that the proposals were thought to be too expensive.

The Vermillion School Board and administration can be credited for keeping local property taxpayers in mind when it designed this building expansion proposal.

The project's estimated cost is $5.6 million. But the school board has found a way to soften the blow to taxpayers by asking voters to approve the issuance of only $3.5 million of general obligation bonds. The remaining price tag on the proposal will be paid by issuing $2.1 million in capital outlay certificates which will not result in additional taxes or levies because it is repaid from the district's capital outlay budget.

That means, if approved, this school expansion project will increase property taxes by $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed taxable property valuation.

To put it another way, if you own a home valued at $50,000, the passage of the bond issue would cause a semi-annual tax increase of $25.75.

Compare the proposed $1.03 per $1,000 tax levy to the increase in levies property owners are paying in neighboring districts for school building projects � Dakota Valley, $3.63; Elk Point-Jefferson, $4.67; Canton, $2.87; Beresford, $2.80 and Gayville/Volin, $4.90 � and the Vermillion proposal looks like a bargain.

Let's explore areas of education that are having difficulty keeping up with standards that are constantly on the rise.

There was no such thing as personal computers when Vermillion High School was built in the 1960s. In fact, the building's designers apparently felt that the district would never need anything more than a rather small room that holds a few tables and shelves for a school library. Today, we know that is not longer acceptable. Adequate space for a library/media center is essential.

In the mid-1960s, the gymnasium in Vermillion High School was built to host just one sport � boys basketball. These days, it's home to all boys and girls basketball, girls volleyball and boys wrestling. It is so over-used that students must practice at 6 a.m., and the school's girls gymnastics program must practice in a separate building leased by the school district. That same gymnasium also is the home of other events, ranging from music concerts to coronation. In just the last 10 years, VHS has produced 146 All-State musicians. But no one has ever had an opportunity to hear them in an acoustically proper atmosphere. That problem can be solved with the construction of a new 750-seat auditorium that can be used by both the school and the public.

Yes, Vermillion High School isn't falling apart. But it's losing its abilities to meet the contemporary needs of students.

Therefore, we urge citizens to vote yes Tuesday.

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