To the editor:
Question 3 on the November ballot is like the old car dilemma. When do endless repairs on a 14-year-old vehicle with 220,000 miles exceed the cost of replacing it? When do you bite the bullet and suck up the monthly payments, knowing that its replacement will be more reliable, safer, get better mileage and even allow you to stream music?
We can reject Question 3 and try to maintain two schools that were built when Truman and Eisenhower were presidents. Those buildings have served us well but at some point, bubble gum and baling wire will no longer keep East Gloucester and/or Vets Memorial open. They will be forced to close, probably on an emergency basis, for total overhauls while the kids are trucked to swing space. When the children return, these buildings will feature the same footprints that worked for their great grandparents but lack vital features that should be preparing them for the future.
By rejecting Question 3, we can kick the can down the road and burden ourselves later with the taxes to pay for these overhauls. But anyone who argues the new school is unaffordable better be first in line when the overhaul tax bill comes due. And when that emergency arises, our rich relative, the commonwealth, won’t be picking up 40% of the cost. Instead of the taxes needed for Gloucester’s $40 million share of a new school, we’ll be paying $36 million in taxes to renovate two old schools that the state won’t support. We can hang on to the old car for $36 million or get a new one for $40 million. Pay me now or pay me later, this isn’t new or fuzzy math. It’s just math.
The grim impacts of the pandemic on the economy and so many livelihoods make this an awful time for Gloucester voters to be making decisions about their city’s future. Nobody with heart can know whether $100 more in taxes per year on a property assessed at $500,000 will be unaffordable for some. But the school funded by Question 3 has been in the works since 2014. This ballot question is about our faith in the future, in the rebound of our economy, and not wishfully thinking that grandpa’s Oldsmobile can stay on the road indefinitely.
I suspect presidents Truman and Eisenhower would both agree that some public investments are unavoidable. One can hear Truman, of “Buck Stops Here” fame, recite the ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ adage to make his case. And the principled stance of the General would note that we can’t afford to compromise the educational futures of our children. The old car served us well, but it’s time to step up and drive into the future.