By Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher
Living in a small town is wonderful. Knowing people in the grocery store, the space and security for children to play in parks or yards and a shared sense of ownership with your neighbors to help and make life better for each other are some of the things that make this life sweet.
Smaller usually feels like an advantage in rural communities, except there are fewer people to help financially support the cost of community resources. Farmers and other landowners cover a large portion of the communities’ financial needs through property tax payments to support local municipalities, schools, hospitals and other taxing entities.
Incredibly rural communities often have a choice between shockingly high taxes or a glaring lack of important community services. Bond issues are a way for the community to declare their opinion of whether some of the taxes are worth it.
This spring, our school district like many other across the state, has a bond issue on the upcoming ballot. The school is asking our community to make improvements to existing facilities to accommodate unmet and future needs.
Bond measures are really asking whether you and your neighbors want to join together and spend money out of your own pocket on an investment in the community. All investments should be considered carefully by weighing the cost against the risk and reward.
In our ultra-polarized world, some people will quickly jump to one side or the other of this issue. Some will oppose the measure because the cost is too high or they believe the improvements are not needed. Others are strongly in favor of all investments in education and community improvements regardless of the cost.
This community has been fortunate to have had citizens who balanced fiscal responsibility with a vision for a community that is a great place to live. As I look around, it is easy to see all the places where people have made investments of time and money to make our community great.
I often marvel about how people have been proactive and really cared about the future of our community. It’s not like that everywhere. I appreciate the past investments and feel a sense of obligation and desire to do my best for the future of this place.
Personally, I am typically pro-investment because community growth and improvements to our schools and other facilities make for a high quality of life that attracts new people and helps us all to thrive. However, the idea of more taxes pushes me to temper that reaction with an evaluation of the project before deciding my stance.
It is my responsibility as a voter and community member to evaluate the proposed bond against my own desires and the needs of our community. The vote is a few weeks away, and I have been investigating the proposal, discussing it with my fellow voters and seeking knowledge to fill gaps in my understanding.
If you have a bond issue in your community, I hope you will take the time to evaluate what is being asked and if the solution is the right course of action. Getting to the decision right can have a big impact on the future of your community.
I haven’t made a decision on the bond issue yet but am confident I will walk into the polling booth as an informed voter with the best interest our community in mind. I also have faith that my fellow community members have the same feelings of responsibility and ownership of the decision they make.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.