Arlington school board members, scheduled to meet Thursday to consider calling a $663.1 million bond election in May, should take their time in that decision.
There’s no need to rush. The deadline for calling the election is still three weeks away.
Trustees should use this time to scrub the list of projects, which was put together during five months of deliberation by the 38-member Capital Needs Steering Committee.
There’s every reason to believe the committee has done a good job. In fact, the six board members at last week’s meeting were unanimous in accepting the committee’s recommendations. Committee members deserved that show of confidence, just as they deserve the board’s thanks for their hard work.
But none of the committee members are responsible to the district’s taxpayers for these decisions. Every school board member is.
Accepting the committee’s recommendations should not be taken as a commitment to put all of them on the ballot.
Taxpayers deserve a thorough airing of the proposals by their elected board members. They deserve to see those officials working hard to determine for themselves whether each dollar in borrowed bond money is necessary and will be spent wisely.
They deserve the opportunity, on more than one occasion, to comment to board members about the proposals.
They deserve to know how much this borrowing can be expected to cost them.
The project list is long and impressive: two new elementary schools; specialized centers for students focused on fine arts, career and technical training and agricultural science; a $25 million districtwide athletic complex; multipurpose activity centers at each high school at a total cost of $60 million.
Taxpayers deserve to hear their school board deliberate how to package the bond list on the ballot. Sometimes, districts put their entire list in one proposition for an all-or-nothing vote. Others split proposals into two, three or more propositions so voters have more choices.
A survey conducted at school district expense indicated that more than half the district’s voters would support issuing as much as $700 million in bonds. Survey results are no guarantee of election results.
The next three weeks are a valuable time for board members to convince voters they are being presented with the right bond package under the right terms.