We’re not going to tell you to vote “Yes” on 4G, Yuma School District-1’s $16 million bond issue ballot question.

You are all adults. You know how to think for yourselves.

Rather, we will explain why the Pioneer endorses 4G, and thinks it will be a great benefit to the community for decades to come.

First off, the district has put in the work, the “due diligence” if you will, to get to this point. District leaders listened to the public after the 2016 bond issue was defeated by less than 100 votes. In fact, Yuma-1 is asking for less from the taxpayers, $16 million, than it did in 2017, when it sought more than $17 million.

That is due to the hard work put in after the 2016 election.

Yuma-1 got busy fixing some of the more pressing mechanical problems facing the district, following the 2016 election. It successfully applied for “smaller” BEST Grants to help pay for critical mechanical issues, such as heating and cooling needs and an upgraded control system at Yuma Middle School. It dipped into reserves, which is partly all taxpayers’ money since a significant chunk of district funds comes from property and specific ownership taxes, to help pay for these upgrades, as well for other mechanical work not partly covered by a grant.

That shows good faith.

District leaders went through the painstaking process of developing a comprehensive Master Plan with Neenan Archistruction. It is a major requirement for major BEST Grants, but it also gives the district a detailed outline of facility needs, and also how to best meet educational challenges. It provides a framework for what needs to be addressed now, with this proposed project, and also what needs to be done in the future in order to keep all the school buildings safe and meeting students’ educational needs.

Yuma-1 then, again with the help of Neenan, finalized a BEST Grant application. It was successful, securing $16 million in state funds to pay for half of the proposed $32 million project, which entails renovation of the current Yuma High School, as well as building a new wing, along with some needed upgrades at YMS. The BEST Committee found Yuma’s presentation so compelling, it was ranked second among all “big project” applications.

We don’t get to use the money unless we pony up the other $16 million. We will probably never have another opportunity like this.

The district also took the steps to refinance the current bond debt, saving taxpayers a significant amount of money. It also greatly decreases the impact if the bond issue passes.

For all that, we believe the Yuma-1 leaders have earned our trust.

Trust in that our tax money will be wisely spent on this proposed project.

It should be noted that all the board of education members also will be impacted by the bond issue. They will have to pay more in property taxes just like everyone else, and also have businesses or are employed by businesses that will be impacted. The superintendent lives here and owns a home, and also will be subjected to more taxes. Much of the Yuma-1 staff is the same way.

It is a popular notion to hate taxes, but it is a necessary evil. I tend to trend toward the belief that less federal tax, a streamlined federal government, and more money in our pockets, is a good thing.

However, taxes — particularly at the local level — do a lot of good. Taxes help pay for police protection, fire protection, 911 services, streets, recreation, parks, libraries, public education, snow removal (no snarky comments, please), health services, and so much more.

One will be able to see first hand the fruition of their tax money if this bond issue passes.

Yuma High School was built about 45 years ago. It was built well. The “bones” are in good shape. However, it is showing its age behind the walls, with roofing, electrical and heating and cooling issues mounting. Just look at the article in last week’s edition about the Yuma Museum. That building is a few years older than YHS, and its issues are the same — roofing, electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling.

We can keep addressing these problems as they arise, throwing good money after bad, which Yuma-1 already has been doing.

In one fell swoop we can get all these things upgraded and in great shape for decades to come. YHS will remain a viable building for another 40-50 years. Plus, the current high school will be renovated to better meet today’s educational needs, eliminate hidden dead space, create better classrooms with more natural light, resulting in a better learning environment, along with the creation of a new wing that will better meet the needs of all students, many of whom are not going to go off to a traditional four-year college. It also will bring the ag building into the school, and provide a much-needed auxiliary gym, which is actually classroom space. (Hey, P.E. was one of my favorite classes growing up.)

Don’t forget, too, that the junior high wing at YHS is nearly 30 years old and is in need of a heating and cooling upgrade, new windows for the classrooms, and a renovated serving kitchen. Then there is the chaos of dropping off and picking up your kid at the YMS/MES campus. The bond issue will help pay for a new infrastructure to be put in place for that. Some of you might roll your eyes at that, but then obviously you never had to go through it.

In the end, this is all about the kids, our future. It’s not about the adults involved, or even me (even though I tend to think everything is about me).

This project will provide a first-class learning environment for our youth, allowing for them to be effectively educated and trained to be our future workforce.

It is not just about today’s youth, but generations to come, helping Yuma remain a shining light on the high plains of northeastern Colorado.
The introduction of Northeastern Junior College opening a branch campus right across the street from YHS just further enhances the opportunity for Yuma to become an even bigger player on the regional stage.

This bond issue is a moment of reckoning for Yuma. So many of us love to think of Yuma as a “progressive” community. Maybe we were at some point, and maybe we will continue to be, but it takes a continual commitment, from generation to generation, to step up to the plate.

The needs addressed by this project are not going to go away, they will just get more acute and more expensive into the future if we don’t tackle them now.

Are we going to be the ones that continue the progress made over the past 130-plus years? Or are we going to be the ones that begin the slow, painful decline into irrelevancy?

It is your choice, your vote. You decide.

Rayl can be reached at info@yumapioneer.com, or on The Yuma Pioneer Facebook, or on Twitter @tonyrayl.