On February 21, the Christian County Board of Education voted unanimously to increase the county school tax for the stated purpose of constructing a new instructional building at Hopkinsville High School. The board has also said that it needs to begin plans to replace the instructional portion of Christian County High School.
A group of citizens has begun the process of placing this new tax on the ballot so it can be recalled and not imposed. I urge community minded citizens not to sign the recall petition. There are sound reasons which support the action of the school board in the interest of the education of our children.
Every four years, the school board is required by state law to undertake a thorough evaluation of all public school facilities. The evaluation is done by an outside architect and engineering firm and then reviewed by a citizen facilities committee before adoption by the school board as the four-year Facilities Plan. I currently serve as chair of the Christian County Schools Facilities Committee and participated in the facility evaluation process.
The top priority and most pressing need identified in the current four-year facilities plan is to replace the instructional portion -- not the gym and athletic facilities -- at Hopkinsville High School. This building, constructed more than 50 years ago, is in bad shape as any current student can attest. The estimated cost of renovation is almost as much as replacement cost. Therefore it makes no sense to spend any more money on repairs. The second highest priority is to replace the instructional portion of Christian County High School. That building is also more than 50 years old and in need of replacement in the near future.
The problem is the school board does not have on hand the estimated cost of a new building which is $42 million. And, to make matters worse, the school board's borrowing capability, based on current school taxes, is only $11 million. The new nickel tax would boost the borrowing capacity to the $50 million range which would be enough to build one new school. Without the new tax, the school board has only one option: continue to allow the buildings to deteriorate.
Our school board is made up of five honest, hard-working and conservative people. They would not have voted for the extra nickel tax if they thought they had any other workable option. We should support our school board in the name of what is best for the common good of our community. This may be a tipping point where we as a community decide whether we will invest in our kids which are our future. If we make the wrong choice, all Christian Countians will suffer in the long run. Public education is the most important factor in achieving a successful community.
I urge all citizens not to sign the recall petition. If enough signatures are obtained and the tax is placed on the ballot, I urge all citizens to vote yes. We must have safe and adequate schools if Christian County is to be a strong and vibrant community, a community in which we can all take pride. Successful communities have good public school facilities. Paying for good schools is a civic duty which we should not ignore.
Dan Kemp is the former mayor of Hopkinsville.