Letters On Sept. 23, think about cost

To the editor:

Just received a brochure in the mail about the proposed opt-out vote to increase our property taxes to help bail out the financial needs of our local school district on Sept. 23.

When Sept. 23 comes around, and you go vote on a yes or no decision to opt-out of the property tax freeze, I would like for you to think about the cost of your property taxes at the present time, and think about the cost over the next five to 10 years, because we all know that once the government gets that extra money, it's very hard for them to not waste it, or become very dependent on it.

If you're a long-term resident, or even a short term resident of Clay County, or the community of Vermillion, you have seen little or no economic growth over the last 20 years.

Example: There are four economic factors in Clay County; 1) One works for the University in some capacity; 2) One works for the public school system in some capacity; 3) One works for the city of Vermillion in some capacity; 4) One works for the county in some capacity, or you are retired drawing off the benefits of one of these four government organizations, and that, my folks, is the economy of Clay County.

Plus, what few small businesses along Cherry Street and Main Street, and what few entrepreneurs we have. It's like the old saying, "We're always robbing Peter to pay Paul."

It's time that the public starts telling our city leaders that enough is enough. And that it's time to start making hard decisions, and live within your budget, and stop this madness of trying to have a champagne budget like the big cities, with a beer pocket book.

I encourage everyone that has property, and went through this last year's property increase, to vote no, and send a message that it's time to live within our means, or someone in the know, get off their behind, and get into the 21st century of economic growth, so we can afford to have all the positive things that our young people need and expect.

Remember the power to tax is the power to destroy, and we can't afford to lose any more businesses or home owners because of our out-of-control tax structure.

Just thinking out loud,

Dave Raabe


Opt-out involves trust, efficiency

To the editor:

On April 9, 2002, a committee was selected to represent the community in the decision of an opt-out to increase funds for our school district. After two months of study, they found out that there appeared to be a lack of trust by staff, parents, and community members directed toward the school administration. In addition, this task force recommened 10 possible cuts that would be supported by the community.

It has been over a year since this recommendation was presented to our board of education on June 10, 2002. In deciding my vote on the upcoming opt-out, there are a number of areas about which I still have reservations:

1) Has the trust issue been resolved?

2) After selecting this committee, has this administration respected the committee's findings?

3) Is the money from the general fund being used with maximum efficiency?

4) For $92,293 plus benefits, is the superintendent's position being utilized to maximum efficiency? Many schools across South Dakota are combining the positions of superintendent and principal.

5) Are our principals' positions being utilized to maximum efficiency? How many schools in South Dakota have full-time curriculum directors? Each and every administrator is educated in curriculum development. Could this position be a shared duty among principals and the superintendent as it is in many other schools?

6) The Vermillion administration has cried wolf on two previous opt-out proposals. Is this the real deal or are they howling at the moon for a third time?

It has been said that this opt-out is a simple vote. Either you support education and vote yes, or you don't support education and vote no. If that is the case, the opt-out will pass with high approval.

Everyone is willing to support the best education possible for our children. This opt-out involves much more than the best education for our children. It involves the trust issue of the administration and the efficiency in which our tax dollars are already being spent.

If this opt-out passes, I am concerned that the administration will get more of our tax dollars only to use it on their terms.

Randy Becham


Opt-out needed to maintain quality

To the editor:

"Why doesn't the school district make some budget cuts rather than asking for an opt-out?"

This is a question that is being asked by some citizens regarding the upcoming vote on the opt-out for Vermillion's schools. It is a fair question and it deserves an answer.

The simple answer is that over the past four years the school district has made over $1 million in cuts and budget enhancements. Superintendent Mayer has already detailed these cuts in the Sept. 5 "School Comments" article in the Plain Talk so I won't repeat them. What I want to point out is that despite the size of these cuts, the Vermillion community has by-and-large not felt the impact of the cuts.

The administrators who must do more because of staffing cuts have certainly felt the impact.

The teachers who went without a pay raise during the 2002- 2003 school year certainly felt the cuts.

And a relatively small number of students have felt the impact of cuts in the K-9 alternative school, the gifted and talented program, and the loss of French at the high school.

The problem that the school board faces now is that the "easy" cuts, the cuts that minimally impact students have all been made. And they have been made with very few people even noticing. This is why people ask the question about making cuts instead of opting out � the cuts so far have been almost painless to the students and community.

But, the easy cuts have been made and only hard cuts remain. Cuts that students, their parents, and likely the community at large will notice.

The school board wishes to maintain the quality of education that the children of Vermillion expect and deserve. That cannot be done if further cuts need to be made, and that is why the school board is asking for an opt-out.

The opt-out will not restore programs that have already been cut, it will not even prevent further cuts in the future unless the state improves education funding. The opt-out does preserve the programs we have now and gives the school board additional time to find cuts that will minimally hurt students.

I would urge everyone to vote yes on the opt-out.

Michael Granaas

Member, Vermillion School Board


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