School Suppoter Says She Will Vote ‘No’ on Bond

October 28, 2019

Dear Editor,
 I am a school supporter.  I will have the best interest of the students and the Farwell Area School District in mind when I vote “No” on the Farwell Area Schools bond proposal on November 5th. It is my hope that we can formulate a more fiscally responsible plan that better meets the needs of our school district in the very near future.

The current plan still includes demolition of the Teachout Wing and new construction.  They have started using the word renovation, but the plan is still for demolition and new construction.  Is this because in order to ask for this amount of money for this amount of time there is a square footage requirement for new construction?  How many more times can we mention that enrollment is down by over 33% since our last bond was passed? Are we expecting enrollment to increase in the foreseeable future? No, we aren’t. How many more times can we discuss the underused/underutilized space in the elementary building and throughout the district?  What can we do with what we have? 

Of course, we want our kids to be safe. The issue is, we have no expert objective evidence to the contrary.  A professional engineering inspection or evaluation has not been presented that deems any area of our facilities to be “unsafe”.  Of course, we want our facilities to have needed repairs. The question is, what are our needs vs. our wants? What is the plan for meeting the needs of our school district?  How do we handle our personal budgets? Do we borrow money for everything we need to repair with a repayment term that outlasts the repairs? No. That would not be responsible.  We make needed repairs by saving for them, or sometimes by borrowing or refinancing. Our community members are familiar with what it means to save for needs, as well as wants. They understand that if we borrow funds with a repayment plan of 19+ years, these funds must meet the planned needs of those 19+ years.  The current plan does not. Please ask the question of your school board or superintendent – when do you plan to ask for more money if this current bond proposal passes? An honest answer would be, “Soon.” When faced with a choice of this bond proposal or a “sinking fund” approach, the response was that a “sinking fund” could not meet the needs of the district.  Truth is, the “sinking fund” approach would bring in more money over time with less associated costs. It would require planning and discipline, and that isn’t easy, but it is a more responsible approach.

The question isn’t whether one should vote with their “pocketbooks” or their “hearts”.  The expectation is that we vote using our heads. It is difficult to develop a plan outlining actual needs, but hard work needs to be done. It is challenging to plan to expand and feature the programs that keep families committed to Farwell Area Schools – but those programs make a difference. While those programs may feel like “wants” they may qualify as “needs” as they keep families in Farwell.  It is difficult to retain quality staff when somehow their professional compensation is tied to something they can’t control, like descending enrollment. We know that our quality staff members are a big part of why people choose Farwell Area Schools for their children. This bond does not have any impact on faculty/staff compensation. It is also important to recognize that yard sign placement does not equate to a “yes” vote.  Signs should have been made available for people to pick them up, rather than distributed to people expected to show support. The citizens of Farwell, Lake, and Lake George can use their heads.

 Mary Lee Humphreys,
Farwell Resident 

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