Archive for Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pared down De Soto bond issue deserves support

October 29, 2008

Tuesday will bring an end to a long campaign season with an election that will have De Soto voters helping decide, among other things, the next president of the United States, the fate a $75 million school bond, another county sales tax increase and the method district court judges are elected. It’s a full ballot, which apparently will mark a record-setting day for the Johnson County Election Office.

The day could also end a two-year effort by De Soto USD 232 to pass a bond package aimed at addressing growth needs. Although it is difficult to advocate for more taxes during a time of economic uncertainty, the De Soto USD 232 bond issue deserves support.

One argument against the bond issue is that the district will not enjoy good interest on bonds because of the economic downturn. The reality is just the opposite. Demand for the relative safety of tax-except public sector bonds should increase, and thus improve interest rates, as investors look for safer heavens than a volatile stock market. There is probably numerous readers who wish they would have moved investments to bonds two months ago instead of remaining in a bear market.

A severe economic downtown or wholesale home foreclosures in the district could delay the need for the other two items in the bond package — a sixth elementary school and the expansion of De Soto High School to 1,000 students — but Mill Valley High school is at its planned capacity of 1,000 students now. It will bust through that ceiling next year when this year’s eighth-grade class replaces a smaller senior class. Far from empty with an enrollment of 611 and a design capacity of 750, De Soto High School doesn’t offer much wiggle room. At it too will see larger freshman classes replace smaller graduating classes.

In the past decade, district officials have said the district wouldn’t build schools included in bond issues unless they were necessary. It could be argued those vows were never tested because the district kept experiencing extraordinary growth, but it should be remembered the district withheld the construction of Horizon Elementary one year because of slower than projected growth. That suggests the district is will adjust to new circumstances.

We understand the frustration of De Soto residents with some bond supporters in the eastern part of the district, who show little or no sympathy or understanding of why someone on fixed income struggling to stay in a family home or with a parent in that circumstance might not favor passage of serial bond issues. But we would add we have never seen evidence of that view among district administrators, who are very aware of what they are asking of homeowners.

Two failed bond issues pared the current package to essentials. It is time to acknowledge the needs are real.

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