NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.
Note: Results from the Indian River School District Referendum will be posted by 11 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, 2000, on Sussex County Online.
Voters in the Indian River School District get one more chance -- probably their last chance -- to approve long overdue infrastructre improvements for their children, grandchildren, relatives, friends and neighbors on Tuesday, May 23, 2000.
Internal bickering amongst school board members jettisoned the last referendum on a $67 million capital improvement package that would build two sorely needed high schools and renovate existing schools that are inadequate for today's technological requirements and growing student population.
The last referendum, on March 23, failed by 101 votes because school board members from the southern half of the district felt renovations weren't adequately addressed, which was enough to give the "Geezer" contingent a reason to vote "no" other than pure selfishness.
I don't believe money necessarily equals a better education, but it does help. Think about colleges and private schools. The best cost the most, and college students and their parents always choose the best college they can afford. I doubt there are many in this district who can't afford the average $55 a year tax increase that would be phased in beginning in 2002.
This issue is very personal to me because I graduated from the Indian River School District in 1978 and have a 5-year-old daughter ready to start kindergarten in the district in the fall.
If this referendum fails, it is likely my daughter will endure the same inadequate school buildings I endured 20 years ago because the state probably won't kick in 60 percent of the $67 million as it will now, meaning any future referendums are doomed to fail because the tax increases would be much higher.
If that happens, my daughter and her classmates will attend classes in the same mobile homes I did, be packed into overcrowded classrooms like I was, and fall behind because the systems in these 1930s buildings won't be able to handle the increased stress of today's technological requirements.
Of course, we've already seen the mobilization of the "Geezer" contingent that always contributes to school referendum defeats. Whether they are retirees or natives, they feel they shouldn't have to pay for our school systems because they don't have kids in school and have no stake in the school system.
They've started writing letters and posting signs opposing the referendum, and while their arguments are completely illogical, they represent such a large portion of the voters in the Indian River district that they can single-handedly derail these much-needed improvements.
Those seniors should remember that they do have a significant stake in the education of our students, just as much as the parents of our school children.
Those students will be their doctors, their surgeons, their emergency medical personnel, their attorneys, their accountants, their financial advisors, etc., etc., etc.
Considering those seniors will rely on those students for the services that make their retirements more comfortable, that $55 a year investment is pretty good. A "yes" vote will be a vote for themselves as much as the students.
At the same time, we wouldn't be faced with such monumental needs now had our buildings been properly maintained. Instead of major updates every generation, we've always heard, "If it was good enough for our generation, it's good enough for yours."
Fortunately, we have a chance -- probably our last chance -- to correct those past failures at the polls from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
You can vote at Selbyville Middle School, Lord Baltimore Elementary, Indian River High School, Sussex Central Middle School, Georgetown Elementary, Long Neck Elementary, and the Gumboro School. Voters must be district residents who are at least 18 years old and U.S. citizens.
More information on the referendum can be obtained at http://www.k12.de.us/indianriver.
You can voice your opinion on county issues in the Sussex County Online Forum or cast your vote on various Sussex County issues on our online poll. Just follow the links below to make your voice heard and your vote count:
For more detailed information on the proposed 2001FY Budget, visit the Sussex County web site at http://www.sussexcounty.net/budget/FY2001/letter.html for a letter outlining the administration's proposal.
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