$72.8 million.
That’s the amount of the proposed Gardner Edgerton bond issue, as unveiled this week by Superintendent Bill Gilhaus.
We have a lot more questions than answers.
Why, would be the first.
Why, in this economy?
Why, when we just held the line on teacher raises?
Why, when it’s rumored a few boundary changes would eliminate overcrowding at some schools?
Why when the district is already suing taxpayers for more money through Schools for Fair Funding?
Gilhaus says that despite the lagging economy, there continues to be an influx of students at about 6 percent annually.
Not to be rude, but where?
When we look around town, we see incomplete subdivisions. We see houses for sale.
And we haven’t noticed a spike in building permits. In fact Gardner recently laid off  part of the Community Development staff.
Still, we’re willing to take Gilhaus’ statement at face value.
That said, there seems to be a lot contained within the bond proposal that has little to do with a 6 percent growth rate, including almost $8 million for a new multi-purpose activity center at Gardner Edgerton High School to facilitate basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, track, aerobics, dance, and strength training.
Gihaus said additional athletic developmental, gymnasium and locker room space are needed at the high school as a result of increased participation in physical education, athletic and activity programs.
We’d like details on the increase in physical education participation, and we’d like to know if the rumor (for new turf at the football field is true), and if so, what is the cost?
USD 231 already has one of the highest mill levies in the state, but apparently the USD 231 Board of Education is pretty sure voters will approve a mail in ballot; they’ve already spent more than $1.4 million for 40 acres of property on a temporary note.
Still, we have questions.
If we issue this $72.8 million in debt, how much more will be needed when the intermodal warehouses come online – especially since most will be built using tax abatements so the cost of new schools will be shifted to homeowners and existing businesses?
Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to decide if they want to ante up more money at a time when property values have been falling.
But until we get more information, our vote is still out.
We just shake our heads and wonder if Gilhaus thinks all the trees Gardner Parks and Recreation has budgetted to plant are going to grow money. With every tax entity – schools, cities, county and state – increasing taxes, we hope so.
And not dollar bills; those trees need to sprout Jacksons.