Twenty years isn't easy to approve, but the tax implications seem to make it a good investment.

   You don’t have to feel a bit sheepish if you’re a little uneasy about voting “yes” on Nov. 5 when you read the single question on the ballot, asking you to approve a hair over $6 million so that all kinds of neglected maintenance, repair and improvement projects can be done at the three public school buildings in Crookston and the swimming pool.

    The main reason for uneasiness? It’s going to be financed over 20 years. That’s a long time. Who knows all of the things that could or could not happen over the next two decades when it comes to educating kids in Crookston’s public schools? Who knows what the long-term future of the swimming pool holds?

    But here’s the deal: In this moment right now, what’s in front of us is a maintenance and repair and improvement package totaling around $14 million that’s going to accomplish a heck of a lot. We’re only being asked to approve a shade over $6 million because legislation passed in St. Paul allows school districts to take on certain types of projects and levy for them without asking voters to approve them first.

    So, make no mistake, your approval is only being sought for less than half of the work that needs to be done at these four facilities. But, at the same time, school district leaders have done their absolute best to present this as a complete, comprehensive package of things that cannot be put off any longer. Yes, some projects are more urgent than others, but there’s no fluff on the list, no needless luxuries. You simply can’t have water leaking into a classroom in which kids are trying to expand their minds. The pool? It’s crumbling.

    Go ahead and raise your eyebrows with more than a hint of skepticism when you’re told that all of this can get accomplished without your property taxes paid to the school district each year going up a dime. On some level, it does indeed sound too good to be true.

    But, for now, people who get paid to know more than most people about dollars, cents and finances in general are saying that, because the bonds that built the high school will be paid off in 2015, the net result of voting “yes” on Nov. 5 will essentially be a wash when it comes to your school property tax statements.

    Maybe we shouldn’t have to be voting on this in the first place. Maybe this facility neglect could have been avoided. But money has for years been tight in the district, and when push comes to shove, money is going to be spent on the things that most directly impact student learning. Buying a new boiler or installing a new air-handling system usually lose that battle.

    If the “no” votes prevail on Nov. 5, it’s likely that, because of the board’s authority to levy for certain things, some needed work will get done. But a lot will not, which is why it’s important that this comprehensive package of needs finally be met.

    It’s cliché to say your “yes” vote is for the kids, but it is. It’s for the high school students, the younger students, and the students who aren’t yet in school or who aren’t even born yet.  A “yes” vote is also for our community, of which the public schools and, yes, the pool, are an integral part.