Written by Dale Suderman Wednesday, 02 May 2007 07:55On June 5 the Hillsboro school district will vote on a $6.625 million bond issue to upgrade the elementary and middle schools, construct new athletic facilities at the high school and develop a unique public/private athletic field to be shared with Tabor College.
Bond issues can easily produce strong feelings. They place an unusual burden on property owners—often the same folks who don’t have kids in school.
But there is no truly equitable way to produce tax revenue. A sales tax is the most regressive tax of all. A 12-year-old kid buying a candy bar pays the same taxes as a multi-millionaire buying the same candy bar. An income tax would be the most equitable, but few counties or cities have an income tax.
I don’t know the details of the Hillsboro bond issue. Currently, I pay taxes in Chicago at a breathtaking rate. (But maybe some day I will end up paying for the Hillsboro school levy.)
But there is a larger principle involved in building for the future best summed up in the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.” A dreamy Iowa farmer builds a baseball field in the middle of nowhere believing the spirits of the great baseball players will show up when he finishes it.
A voice tells him, “If you build it he will come.”
The prairie states were settled on the principle that if you build it they will come. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act and Abraham Lincoln signed into law a proposal that homesteaders could get cheap land but sections 16 and 32 of every township must be set aside for public schools. Additional land was set aside for land grant colleges in each state. Thus Kansas State University was founded a year later in 1863.
In a crazy way, the prairie states were built on a field of dreams. Schools were funded long before there was a need.
Hillsboro has a long tradition of this. The current Tabor College administration building was erected on open land. Civic projects such as the golf course, Memorial Park, the museum complex, Parkside Homes and the industrial park were all initially begun on open fields. Only now are they evolving into a sense of completion.
Marion County Lake and later the Marion Reservoir were initially water holes on prairie land. But they also have evolved into vibrant communities, recreation centers and nature preserves.
The larger question any small town and rural county must ask is, “What field of dreams will we build? Whom do we want to come?”
A community can build for students, senior citizens and sports. Now college and high school students are noisy and often goofy, but they are fairly harmless in the long run. They do require lots of teachers and school administrators to keep them in line. But teachers make good citizens and even students eventually grow up.
Athletes are smelly and a bit preoccupied with winning. But they too are ultimately harmless and keep a lot of coaches, groundskeepers employed as well as doctors and chiropractors.
Senior citizens sometimes drive too slowly and occasionally keep their left-turn signals on for three blocks. But they are also our grandparents, our storytellers and our key community volunteers.
The option also exists to fund a prison complex and take in inmates from other counties. This too is a field of dreams. Build it and they will come from jails in surrounding counties.
If I had a vote, I would put my tax money on education, recreation and seniors. Many have already come to the field of dreams and the field can be expanded if the dream continues.
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