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Posted on Feb 4, 2016

School bond impacts all of us

By Jill FitzSimmons

As a rule, I nearly always support school levies and bond measures. But it’s easy for me. I’m in the thick of things.
With three teenagers in my home, my week is filled with asking questions about homework, checking in on grades and due dates, and scheduling life around sporting events and afterschool programs. As the mother of teens, there’s a constant buzz in my head (more like a warning alarm), wondering if the kids have the resources they need to successfully prepare for life after high school.
A strong, healthy school system is at the top of the priority list in my house. I suspect many parents in the Quincy School District feel the same way I do.
But why should a community, as a whole, support the $108 million school bond that’s before voters at this time?
Because a strong, healthy school system should be at the top of every community’s list of priorities. Schools provide a foundation on which a community builds and prospers. This bond measure before voters is a step to strengthening that foundation in Quincy, a growing community with an even brighter future within its grasp.
In case you haven’t heard, the $108 million bond measure proposes a multi-year renovation and construction project that will impact every school – and every student – in the district. The bond measure was put before voters because the school district is projected to grow by 20 percent in the next five years.
Some of the projects earmarked in the bond are: A new gymnasium at both Monument and Pioneer schools; Quincy Junior High School will be renovated for use as a K-5 elementary school, giving the school district five elementary schools under the proposed new grade configuration; George Elementary School will get eight new classrooms and a new gym; Quincy High School will be remodeled to serve as the new middle school; some $3 million in infrastructure improvements will be made throughout the district, including at High Tech High and Monument Elementary School; and a new, $80 million high school will be built on district property on the city’s north side.
If the bond is passed, with the construction and renovations will come a reconfiguration of the grade levels at all the schools, creating five elementary schools (grades kindergarten through fifth), a middle school (grades sixth through eighth) and a high school (grades ninth through 12th). With reconfigured grade levels, grade school students will be able to stay in their neighborhood schools longer – six years compared to two to four right now.
With the arrival of the data centers, the Quincy community has seen tremendous growth and changes in the last seven years. In a fast-growing community, a healthy and robust school district is key. This bond measure would update current facilities and provide a state-of-the-art high school in Quincy.
The bond measure, if passed, would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $378 a year. Is that a good deal? That’s a personal question, because it depends on who you ask.
What we do know for sure is that the last time the school district asked voters to consider a 20-year bond was in 1998, when voters passed a $19.8 million bond for the construction of Monument Elementary School. That project, which built one school, cost taxpayers $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
With the growth in Quincy over the past eight years — and the corresponding increase in the school district’s assessed value — the bond before voters today would be able to accomplish more at a lower rate. Today, the $108 million bond would cost property owners $1.89 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
That sounds like a good deal to me.
That $1.89 rate is expected to go down over time. Quincy’s business district is not yet done growing. Port of Quincy Commissioner Curt Morris has said in meetings that he doesn’t even think Quincy has peaked yet. In fact, there are still local data center expansions that haven’t gone online. When they do, the increase in the school district’s assessed value will drive that rate down.
It will take a 60 percent majority to pass the bond. That’s not an easy hurdle to clear. Whether you have school-age children or not, supporting the bond is a way of showing not only your support for the schools but also the community as a whole.

 

Jill FitzSimmons is the editor of the Quincy Valley Post-Register. She can be reached at editor@qvpr.com.

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