Rethink Measure H
As the dean of Sierra College’s Truckee campus stated in his recent My Turn column (“Measure H aims to bring first-class education to Truckee” Sierra Sun Oct. 1) supporting Measure H, “No one can seriously question the benefit of higher education in modern society.” In my opinion, he is totally correct in that statement. It is also my opinion that the reasons he gives for the need of a “state-of-the-art campus” here in Truckee are seriously flawed.The dean speaks of the high cost and inconvenience of obtaining higher education at distant public institutions. Consider this: We have available within about a 30-minute drive, three institutions of higher education. Sierra Nevada College has a wonderful campus at Incline Village. Reno offers Truckee Meadows Community College, as well as the University of Nevada campus. UNR offers a good neighbor policy, which gives reduced fees to residents of eastern California counties. There is a vast array of online classes offered by Sierra College as well as numerous other institutions of higher learning. On this note, online education is the wave of the future and is already present. This fact has been put forth by various professional sources. These sources also imply that the traditional college campus model is becoming – and will increasingly become – obsolete. Sierra College has, over the years, provided educational opportunities utilizing high schools in the area and more recently their rented facility at the Pioneer Center. It appears to me that the college traditionally and presently does a good job. It is important to keep in mind that Sierra College is merely one of numerous opportunities available to us. With rapidly changing and improving technology, changing educational needs and changing local population, it would appear that the continued utilization of existing facilities would afford the most flexible and economic means of providing classroom space.In the guest column, it was stated that the average cost to us property owners for Measure H would be about $32 per year for the next several years. At $16 per $100,000 assessed valuation, that would mean that the average house is only appraised at $200,000. Now there’s something to really laugh at. Even if correct, the average means that one half the homes are valued above $200,000. So, you do the math based on your assessed valuation. In addition to this proposed add-on to our property taxes there are some half dozen other taxes, all except one being for our schools.Furthermore, the $32 million of this bond is just to purchase the property, which as the dean states is prime downtown property on a hill. Who is going to pay the hundreds of millions it will cost to actually build the campus? We all know the extremely high cost of building in our area. Add to that the significantly higher cost of construction on hillsides.And all this to provide “low-cost” education. Can’t “low-cost” education be amply provided in less expensive facilities; that which cannot be provided via Internet? My feeling is one of being an overburdened tax payer. A huge percentage of our basic property taxes are already allocated for education and we continue to do local “add-ons.” Where does it stop, and is it the best way to spend our money?In his column, the dean of the Truckee campus even pulls out the environmental card to appeal to us. I am an ardent environmentalist and user of alternative transportation. He paints such a lovely picture of paths and trails winding around “Hippie Hill,” the proposed site of the “state-of-the-art” campus, linking downtown with Highway 89. While I am a strong proponent and user of alternative transportation, such as bike and walk, and while the General Plan also strongly supports that, the reality is that virtually nothing exists that is designed to safely allow bikes and pedestrians to travel from downtown, much less along Highway 89. The infrastructure is just not there. Secondly, there are several months per year when these forms of transportation are not feasible. Thirdly, and unfortunately, we are still quite married to our cars. Finally, while I would rather see the proposed site be open space the reality is that any development of that area could have the same restrictions and requirements placed upon it.In summary, it is clear to me that this college campus is simply not needed here given the existing and ready availability of higher education and enrichment programs. It imposes another tax burden to an already overburdened property tax system. It would impose more pressure on our already over-pressured infrastructure. It is a very costly and inefficient way to provide low cost education and enrichment.Rolf Godon is a longtime Truckee resident and educator.
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