You may have heard that Orono is holding a vote on this coming Tuesday, June 11th to pass a bond in support of some long-overdue upgrades to our crumbling schools. As a proud Orono resident with two children in our schools, I was fortunate to have a role as one of the community representatives in the planning process leading up to the bond.
Now that we’re getting close to the vote, I’ve been having some great conversations with Orono folks about the vote, and I’ve heard from some people who are considering voting against these upgrades because of the tax impact.
While I think these upgrades to our schools are essential and the tax burden is more than reasonable, I do agree with some of my neighbors: Orono taxes are high. Not just politically: in a way that keeps more of the next generation of great citizens out of our town, makes it increasingly harder for people on fixed or lower incomes to remain here, and comes up enough from enough people that it is worth confronting.
Sadly, our taxes are so high that smart and caring people are considering voting against a detailed, comprehensive plan to fix our schools. A plan that was carefully assembled over many months, with multiple opportunities for public input, to be as focused and as economic as possible. A plan that set out from the start to be as economical as possible by only recommended half of the upgrades deemed most essential by construction experts and community members who attended forums and meetings.
So I say to you: if you’re upset with our tax burden, you won’t solve that by voting against fixes that we desperately need to keep our schools from becoming uninhabitable.
You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing us from fixing the broken ceiling tiles, exposed wiring, temporary classrooms, and unsafe / insecure entrances.
You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing our state championship winning track team and our legendary football team from being able to play their games at a home field.
You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing our five-straight state championship show choir teams from performing in a lunchroom for the next 20 years.
Sadly, if you vote against this plan, you solve nothing.
Our schools are only getting worse, and they’re getting worse quickly. Our kids will continue to suffer with substandard, embarrassing, and dangerous facilities.
The next time we need repairs and improvements, the same work will only cost more.
People who might move here will be turned away by the condition of our school facilities.
And our tax burden will still be unsustainable.
Orono neighbors: I urge you to vote in support of the bond on Tuesday, June 11. Let’s put out students and our town first, and make up for years of overdue upgrades right now.
When that is done, we can work together as a community to address our tax burden.
I’ll be right there with you.