March Editorial Winner

Vote 'Yes' for student safety, Altus' future
Rick Carpenter, The Altus Times

It’s appropriate that the slogan for the Altus Public School bond issue proposal is “This is the Year.” That’s because voters haven’t passed one in at least 60 years, but this may be the defining year for Altus to pass it. That’s because the future of Altus may depend on how well we support our children.

Altus Air Force Base is the driving force for the Altus economy. It’s the number one job producer along with cotton production. The base employs 1,507 civilians and 1,410 fulltime military personnel, not to mention the 1,743 students who rotate through Altus on an annual basis.

Air Force officials rank quality of life and quality public education at the top of their list for sustaining military bases. Altus has survived five Base Realignment And Closure (or BRAC) Acts since 1986 partly because of the commitment of the community to the base.

But that commitment may come into question if voters defeat two propositions on Tuesday’s ballot that would create two different sinking funds, one for the school district’s well-documented capital needs and the other for transportation.

While virtually every other school district in Jackson County has about the same mil levy for general and building funds as Altus, they also have a sinking fund of 2.07 to 35.8 mils to fund their schools’ long-term needs. A mil represents one 10th of one cent. Altus Public Schools has zero.

If voters approve the $6 million bonds, it would raise ad valorem (property) taxes about $10 a month for each $100,000 of actual property value for homes and other buildings. It would increase ad valorem taxes by about $5 for each 160-acre parcel of farm and ranch land.

Passing the ballot proposals boils down to one basic question: Is the safety of children in Altus important to you?

Proposition 1 calls for constructing two classrooms and two restrooms to serve as “safe rooms” for both the Altus Early Childhood Center and Altus Primary School. While those rooms would serve as classrooms and restrooms, they’ll be large enough to herd the entire student body of each school into those rooms in the event of severe weather or another safety issue.

Think back to the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore that wiped out three schools and killed seven children. That district has since passed a $209 million bond issue to put safe rooms in every school.

The Altus Public School would like to also eventually have “safe rooms” available at each school.

Proposition 1 also calls for replacing playground equipment at L. Mendel Rivers Elementary, Altus Primary and Altus Elementary schools to make them safe and ADA compatible while also installing fencing for student safety. That fence would keep predators from video recording students while they’re playing.

And it calls for acquiring security equipment district wide such as video surveillance equipment — a service many families have at their homes and business owners have in their businesses.

Proposition 2 would replace four charter and four activity buses with eight activity buses that are safer than the current models, each of which has more than 500,000 miles on them. Talk to students who ride those current buses and they’ll tell you horror stories of the buses leaving them broke down on the side of the road, waiting for repairs or tow trucks.

During virtually any election you’ll hear politicians promising to make changes that will benefit your children and your children’s children. That message plays well for all political parties because the most important thing we do on earth is to raise our children in a safe environment and offer them the tools to succeed in life. In this election, you don’t even have to vote for a politician; you can just vote “Yes.”

Several city council and both mayoral candidates in last month’s election stated in a forum that they want to build a better Altus so that when their children leave for college, they will want to come back to enjoy the amenities of their hometown. Some went so far as to say the most important vote of confidence for our youth is to pass the bond propositions.

Those who oppose the question often say the schools can make up funds they need by passing a new Metropolitan Area Projects (or MAPS) sales tax in two years. There’s no guarantee that question will pass, whether it will include the school district and even if it does pass, the needs of the school district exceed what the current propositions can pay for.

By voting “Yes” on Propositions 1 and 2, you’ll be proclaiming your commitment to the youth and the progress of Altus while also telling the brass in Washington that you support a safe quality education experience for Altus and Airmen families.

No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.