To the editor:

Beware of school bonds!

The 5J school district has ignored the voice of the voters and is again trying to pass a school bond measure. Only this year it is for more money and doesn't have provisions to update existing facilities. I feel compelled to raise a few questions about the rationale of building a new school.

Does the need exist? Last I heard enrollment is on the decline.

Can we afford it? What is the real cost of financing $21 million dollars?

Over double the bond amount.

Will it improve education? No. Buildings don't teach children. Unless we invest in faculty and curriculum our kids won't be better-educated.

What will happen to the old school? I own six vacant buildings in town and there is no demand for the school to be converted to private commercial use. For the foreseeable future they will sit and rot making our city center blighted and empty. What will it cost to keep the old? It is a false claim that keeping and maintaining the old is more expensive than building new. We do not need to make the old buildings into new buildings but rather update and improve as necessary. What we have is an issue of delayed maintenance and long overdue upgrades, which require a sizable investment to catch up. I also own five historic buildings downtown and I know what it costs to improve and maintain 100-year-old masonry buildings. I am doing it on a very limited budget. The school district can too.

Is it a shame the old buildings are in such sorry shape? Absolutely, and inexcusably so! We don't need a new school. We need to take care of what we have.

My hope would be a renewed interest in the irreplaceable historic buildings that we now have and a more realistic bond measure to systematically bring all the old buildings into compliance and be continually maintained for the next several generations.

To vote for this measure is not a vote for education but rather a vote for throwing away money and our heritage. Say no to spending money we do not have.

Rustin Smith

Baker City