The cost of education

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees will vote on a proposed $77.5 million fiscal 2015 budget that includes a 4 percent increase in the school district’s millage rate, $82.3 million in expenses and a projected $4.78 million deficit. The 4 percent, is the maximum millage increase the board can seek without calling a referendum.
Perhaps it is time for a referendum and to take a look at the message our community is sending our children by continuously underfunding education in Warren County. No amount of jobs will lure our children back to their home after they have gained a college education elsewhere, only to return to a subpar education for their children.
For two decades we have touted the fact that we haven’t raised taxes and are proud to proclaim it. What have we gained and what have we lost?
Industries have not flocked to our community to take advantage of lower taxes, in fact most tax incentives do not include a break on school taxes. We have lost a generation of youth who, after seeing what the rest of the state has to offer, opt not to return and raise a family here. Why would they? We have a D-rated school district in antiquated buildings that require constant maintenance.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, perhaps our community’s largest employer, contracts a ride-share program to bus their employees from neighboring communities. What do those communities have that we don’t? It’s not a great view of the Mississippi River, but it is a better education with a better quality of life.
The military uses quality of life as a measuring stick when deciding on base closures. With two lengthy and costly wars winding down and the federal government looking for ways to cut spending we have reason to be wary.
Two problems linger over our community like a proverbial dark cloud. Our recreation options are few and lag behind the rest of the state and our school district has been hampered with too little money and aging infrastructure for too long.
Perhaps it is time for a referendum, one that would combine our schools and funnel the secondary schools into one large state-of-the-art high school. There would be associated costs, but we can not afford to do nothing. Our schools should be the centerpiece of our community. It’s time to prove to our children that we value their education and we value them.

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