Guest Column: Vote ‘yes’ on measures U and E | SierraSun.com

Guest Column: Vote ‘yes’ on measures U and E

Kim Szczurek

As a member of the TTUSD school board for the last four years, I thought I should take this opportunity to address the proposed school bonds (Measures E & U) that are on this November's ballot.

Your school board takes its job very seriously, continuously trying to keep a laser focus on our job – providing the best possible education to the kids of the Tahoe Truckee region to prepare them for higher education and life. This is a daunting task in a California public school district. We take all comers – from kids who have very severe special needs to kids who are going to eventually attend MIT or Cal Berkeley, kids whose first language is not English and kids who come to school hungry every day. All of this in a state which has continuously reduced the state-wide support of its schools.

We have spent the last four years working very hard to improve the educational opportunity for our kids. We have maintained smaller class sizes and a transportation system that gets kids to school when their parents work or cannot otherwise get them there.

We have added many educational opportunities via extensive advanced placement class offerings at high schools, independent study for kids with ski or other schedule conflicts, more career technical opportunities such as medical and engineering classes, and intervention programs for kids who are falling behind. We have been named an All-American City (Region) for our Tahoe Truckee Reads program. We are not perfect, and we have many more things to accomplish, but we are working hard to give our kids the best.

So why ask for more money from our already generous community? In the State of California, we passed Proposition 13 in the 1970s. This proposition, over time, meant that local communities would have to take care of themselves financially. We've done that here in Tahoe/Truckee, supporting educational opportunities through Measure A, along with local roads and trails. We are so grateful for that.

The challenge is we have a number of schools that have been here more than 40 years, some as many as 70. They have many flaws – structurally, safety, and otherwise. They don't provide the facilities that allow our kids to soar or that match the education we are trying to provide. As a board, we don't ask this lightly. We are fiscally conservative and always aware that we are spending other people's tax dollars.

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As to some of the specifics we've heard: Yes, there will be interest paid over time on the dollars borrowed for these projects. Just like your home mortgage. We'll work to find the lowest possible interest rates, but there will be interest. We should use deferred maintenance monies to pay for these projects. What deferred maintenance monies? We've been trying to keep the teachers in the classrooms, and the state has been taking away maintenance dollars.

Yes, there is some flexibility in the bond language pertaining to the projects, but again, we've worked hard to focus on needs, not wants, while allowing a minimum amount of flexibility in a large and complex building program. We'll have over site. We'll be responsible. Yes, the cost to property owners can fluctuate over time. We have used very very conservative estimates and believe we're showing the possible high end of costs.

At the end of the day each voter will have to determine whether it is worth their tax dollars to enhance school facilities. I would encourage them to think about these questions: Do our schools reflect who we are as a community? Do great schools enhance our area for local employers? Enhance home values? Are our kids worth it? I think so.

If the community chooses to allow us the privilege of pursuing this facilities program, it will be done with the utmost care, keeping the kids the top priority. If they don't, we will still continue to do our very best to provide a top notch education to our kids. Even if we have to do it in a closet.

Please vote yes for Measure U in Truckee and Measure E on the Lake.

Kim Szczurek is president of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees.