Courageous Conversations: Meet The Task Force

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SPRINGFIELD – In Apri,l you will be asked to pay more for your property taxes. The money would go to rebuilding and renovating schools in Springfield. 

It’s called Proposition S, and a task force comprised of several community members came up with the details of what schools needed to provide students with better learning environments. 

“The overarching message that I took out of that was, the need was very great,” said Mike Brothers, a task force member. 

“I just had no sense of how enormous and how much work goes into running a school system for almost 25,000 students,” said Bridget Dierks, co-chair of the task force.

Brothers and Dierks say there was a lot to learn, a lot to talk about and a lot to decide on. 

“The question for us on the task force was what are we going to do about it and how do we prioritize what we are going to do about it,” Brothers said.  

They are both parents, both community members, both taxpayers in Springfield, who were part of the task force – 31 people whose mission was to identify the priorities for Springfield Public School Buildings. They met for five months every other week  

Those members are parents, who live in different neighborhoods and high school areas, different ages and viewpoints, some students, teachers, and a couple of nay-sayers from last time when it failed in 2017. 

“There were some hard conversations,” Brothers said. “There were somewhere we kind of had to sit back and check our own assumptions about what we thought would be the best thing and then come to a consensus.” 

“From people who had supported the bond issue with a lot of enthusiasm the last time, to people who were very opposed to the bond issue and everything in between,” Dierks said. 

“I’ll just be honest, I was kind of a reluctant ‘yes vote’ two years ago. I can’t say that I really felt like I really understood all the details of the plan,” Brothers said. “This time around it’s different.” 

Brothers says the task force was representative of the community 

“Truly kind of a grassroots effort to involve people who really had a stake in the issue,” he said. “We listened to each other. Everyone was free to speak their mind. It was really well structured, but it was also something that was very transparent. I was recently in a meeting with someone who was on the task force who a naysayer last time and they said ‘I felt like I could speak my voice like my voice was heard’.”

Many decisions were made, but the headline – $34 for a $100,000 home in addition to what you already pay each year. The total on the ballot is $168 million for security improvements, renovations and new construction at multiple schools buildings. There will be fees and interest tacked on. 

“As a taxpayer, this is a great deal,” Dierks said,  

Bridget’s son doesn’t attend a school that will be renovated or rebuilt. His school will get a security upgrade. But for her, it’s about the bigger picture. 

“I think about all the kids that are Wilson’s age, and all the places where those kids will be able to go to quality learning environments,” she said. “So that no matter what zip code you live in, and no matter what neighborhood you live in Springfield, your child gets to go to a quality learning environment and gets those same facility opportunities that a kid anywhere else would get here in Springfield,” 

She believes there’s a lot at stake here, not just your hard earned money, but most importantly, the future of your children’s education. 
 

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