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Letter to the editor: Community needs to step up to meet JPS needs

 

The Jamestown community needs the funding that would be provided by the Jamestown Public Schools referendum. The most frequent arguments I have heard against this referendum

boil down to this not being the responsibility of taxpayers, and the feeling that we don’t need a new football field, so I want to address those two arguments.

  1. Taxes are how we pay for free public education that is the right of every child in our country. Public schools do not charge tuition, they have no other source of income. JPS has to decide how to allocate tax dollars they receive from the state of North Dakota, and has done an admirable job. However, four of our schools were built during a 12-year period from 1953-1965, and several components in these buildings (boilers, HVAC, roofing, windows) are nearing their end of their useful life at about the same time – a capital maintenance bubble, not the result of ignoring maintenance needs in the past. The funding provided by the state is not enough to address this bubble, so our community needs to step up and help meet these needs. I don’t want my taxes to go up – nobody does. But I understand that these needs are the responsibility of the taxpayers, and to vote no to this referendum will force JPS to put off these maintenance projects longer than they should, which could end up costing us more if these systems fail and we have to scramble to replace them in a time crunch.
  2. Part of this referendum stems from making a financially and educationally responsible decision to close Washington, and then responding to the community’s desire to repurpose rather than demolish the Washington building – doing that requires closing Ernie Gates football field. So, why close Washington instead of renovating it? Washington would require about $2

million in maintenance (boiler replacement, electrical upgrades, etc.), but that does not include the cost of actually renovating it, and renovation would not change the one-class-per-grade arrangement that has educational and financial disadvantages compared to the two-classes-per-grade model in all our other elementary schools (except Louis L’Amour, which would be expanded to have two classes at each grade level if this referendum passes). Closing

Washington means moving the football field elsewhere – the JHS campus is a safe and convenient location. We could level a space and plant grass fairly inexpensively, or we can invest in an athletic complex that could be used not just for football, but also for track, PE classes, marching band and other groups – this was the decision made, so this is why an athletic complex is included as less than 25 percent of the overall referendum budget.

Solensky is a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee of Jamestown Public Schools.

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