To the Editor:
My wife and I bought our first home in Harper Woods 18 years ago. We both came from families that moved often, and neither of us had the opportunity to set roots, or develop lifelong friendships. When we had our own children, we decided that we would give them that opportunity.
When we outgrew our first house, we bought a larger one within the Harper Woods School District. Over the years, we've seen many friends leave the city, or just the school district, and recently we've begun to question our decision to stay.
With our oldest child now a junior, and our youngest in middle school, the prospect of moving is extremely painful, but we're considering it.
The exodus has already begun, as evidenced by the unusual number of "For Sale" signs in the city. This is more than normal attrition, people are panic selling. It will only get worse if we don't do something about the condition of our schools.
Although I voted for each of the previous bond proposals, I am now convinced that new buildings are not the most fiscally responsible solution. The cost is too high, and the bond term too long. I am also, however, convinced that with each attempt to pass a bond, the opposition gets stronger, and the likelihood of saving our schools lessens. I only wish we could vote on options, rather than "yes" or "no."
Most taxpayers share the same goals; provide our children with an excellent education in a safe learning environment, increase property values, and minimize tax burden. That being said, we all need to recognize that our buildings must, and will be renovated, as mandated by the government.
The question we must answer is how, not if, we will pay for it. Our options are to vote to pass a millage increase, or to take money from programs that benefit our children. With the latter option, we are virtually guaranteed to continue to pay for "Band-Aid" repairs, with no end in sight, at the expense of staff layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer class choices, and the loss of extracurricular activities.
Our district will certainly continue to be plagued by budget shortages, and may at some point be forced to increase enrollment, possibly considering becoming a "school of choice." This prospect sends chills down my spine. Imagine the affects on our property values.
I heard an argument at a town meeting that higher taxes will scare away potential home buyers, but ask yourself: "Would I be more likely to move into a city with higher taxes and solid schools, or one with lesser taxes and troubled schools?" The answer is clear to me.
I believe the wrong proposal is on the ballot, and that the $15 million option to adequately renovate the buildings and improve programs is the right price for the right term.
I also believe the possibility of purchasing and renovating Lutheran East High School should be seriously considered. I will, however, vote to approve this bond, not because it's the best option, but because I fear the consequences of doing nothing.
September 15, 2004