Former board member rebukes school board of Swedeborg, 'No' voters on tax
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Former Swedeborg R-III School Board member James Boren speaks at Tuesday's special school board public meeting.
SWEDEBORG, Mo. (April 13, 2010) — Board members asked visitors at Tuesday night’s public meeting on Swedeborg’s tax levy situation to limit their comments to three minutes. Most speakers complied or were fairly short if they didn’t, but no speaker went longer or received more applause than former board member and longtime resident James Boren.
Boren had strong words of rebuke for both the Swedeborg R-III School Board members and for residents who voted against a tax levy increase that board members say is critical to avoid closing the school district.
School board members, Boren said, have failed to follow good financial management practices by letting deficit spending get out of control for several years.
“You’ve got to run a school just the way you’d run a business. You’ve got to watch the finances, and if you see them going down then you’ve got to do something then, and not wait two years later or three. It’s a little bit late then,” Boren said. “If the school was losing money two or three years ago and had to spend $40,000 each one of those years more than they were taking in, something was wrong.”
Boren reminded board members that years ago a proposal to close the school district tore the community apart but saved the school.
“I’ve seen this district divided and people hurt and families divided on this issue. Once it was going to be voted and divided down the middle, half to Crocker and half to Richland. And the people rose up and said, ‘No, we want to keep the school here!’ and they fought to keep the school here,” Boren said.
Another public vote to detach part of the school district and annex it to the Richland school also created serious problems, he said.
“I’ve seen it divided, family against family, daughters against their dad, when they took a section of our ground out. They done it in a kind of sneaky and roundabout way because they waited till there was only so many who voted and there wasn’t very many who voted that last time because there wasn’t nothing to vote on,” Boren said. “They told them a lot of things that it was closer to Richland than it was to Swedeborg, maybe half of it was but the other half of it was a lot closer to Swedeborg. And I think a lot of them that done that, if they had it to do over again today they’d do different. They wouldn’t divide up our district.”
Regardless of past mistakes, Boren said there’s no choice but to hope current board members do better once they realize their backs are against the wall with district closure as the only alternative.
“Like I say, people did make mistakes, and what you’uns were trying to do is fix the mistakes and a lot of people said, ‘Well, I don’t know, if they didn’t take care of the money the first time, what will they do with it this time?’” Boren said. “I’m willing to give everybody a chance.”
However, Boren saved his strongest rebukes for the Swedeborg residents who voted by a 62 to 102 margin against a tax increase.
“A lot of them said this will raise their taxes $50 a year. Well, this will raise my taxes about $600 or $700 a year and I still voted for it,” Boren said. “Lots of people said, ‘I didn’t vote for it because I don’t have anybody in school.’ … Old people paid taxes for me; what’s the difference with old people paying taxes now?”
Boren said he thinks some people who voted against the tax increase didn’t understand that failing to increase the tax levy would likely close the Swedeborg school, and others who don’t care today if the school closes won’t like the consequence when the community of Swedeborg dies with its school.
“I’ll tell you what, some of those who voted against it are going to find out a little different when the school is gone. When the school is not here anymore and the kids are not here, you won’t hear them playing ball here in this community anymore,” Boren said. “Fifty or sixty dollars. If I could, I’d pay their $60 for them if I knew they’d vote for the school. I hope when they go to bed at night they can sit down and lay down and go to sleep real easy when they destroy a community because that’s what they’re doing when the school is gone. What do you think Swedeborg’s gonna be then? A little bit of nothing.”