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New taxes, now or later?

It’s set: there will be two tax issues on November’s ballot in Pagosa Country.

The county will ask for a roads-specific mill levy increase. The school district will ask for a tax increase to fund construction of new buildings at a site in South Pagosa.

Now, it’s time for the voters to assess as much accurate information as possible — “accurate” being the key word. It is our hope that, given the precarious economic time and the emotions that come of it, proponents and opponents alike exhibit civility and a desire to reinforce their positions with verifiable facts.

The options for the voter are fairly simple.

Take the proposed road tax. Are you one of those who don’t care about the state of the roads or who insist road problems can be solved with effective use of current funds? Do you state that, under no circumstances, will you pay more tax, for any reason? If so, your choice is easy: vote “no.”

Are you one who thinks many county roads are in need of repair, with many in or near a state of ruin? Do you believe that, even with effective use of current revenues, the situation cannot be remedied? If so, you have two choices: vote for the tax and let the county do the work, or vote “no” and urge neighbors in an identifiable community of interest to bond together to form a district to improve and maintain roads within its boundaries. Neighbors tax themselves, form the governing body for the taxing entity and the county acts as a pass-though agency for revenues.

And the school issue?

The choices are obvious.

If you refuse to pay any more tax, for any reason, vote “no.”

For the rest, however, the avenue is going to depend on how well the case for school construction is made. If we are convinced the move must be made now, we vote “yes.” If we believe the move is necessary, but that the timing of the proposal is not right, we vote “no” and keep the idea in mind for another day, knowing there are substantial renovation costs involved with existing buildings.

Prior to hearing the evidence, we need to remember that most of us attended public schools as youngsters. We need to ask how it is that we, likely, attended school in adequate and safe, if not nearly new facilities. Who had the foresight to provide those facilities? It was our grandparents and/or our parents.

Do we have the same sense of obligation to youngsters here, today? To those who are to come? To the community?

Most voters would say “yes.” Most would not easily buy into a specious argument that it is the quality of the education that matters, not the facilities. We have been fooled by too many similar arguments regarding all manner of infrastructure in the U.S. and, thus, have gone down a path that will require great expense in the future.

What we need now is accurate information. Most voters do not have children in the district; a significant number of voters, if not the majority, are retired, or near retirement, watching their investments take a roller coaster ride in the current economy. We need to know why this is the right project at this time, all the while remembering that, to put the project into the laps of the next generation, is to saddle that generation with double, or triple the expense when the decision is made to improve this vital part of the infrastructure.

Proponents have made a first move (see related articles in this week’s SUN), yet have more work to do if they are to convince a majority of voters to approve their proposal.

Karl Isberg

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