When my wife and I had first started dating, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play guitar.
So I bought a guitar.
I was driving by a music store on my way home, and it seemed like the logical thing to do. That was about the extent of the thought I put into it.
The next day, I brought my car in for a routine oil change and walked out needing an alternator, timing chain and a whole list of other work. The $50 I had left in my checking account wasn’t going to cover it, so my short-lived music career would have to wait. I returned the guitar and got my money back to pay for the repairs. Food would also have to wait until the next paycheck. It was ground beef and rice for a couple of weeks.
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I tell you this embarrassing story to illustrate that I am not a financial genius. I tend to make a lot of decisions with my heart, and not my calculator.
There are a lot of people like me. Maybe you are one of them. Supermarkets, gas stations and even hardware stores know us well. I didn’t realize I needed a baseball cap-mounted LED flashlight until I was staring at it for 10 minutes in the checkout line at Lowes, but hey, I could really see myself in something like that!
So when I started reading about the upcoming bond referendum for the school system, it was an instant “thumbs up.”
In the meantime, I have read some very well thought out and written perspectives against the bond in recent articles. I started to question my knee-jerk decision: Is it the right thing to do? Are there better alternatives? Do we need a pool? Can we just rent some trailers until we figure it out?
We are all familiar with the problems that growth has brought to the town of Fort Mill. Admittedly, I have lived here for less than two years, and I feel guilty for being part of the problem. But the reality is, I am not the problem and my neighbors are not the problem. The real problem is five and 10 years away. Clearly we need to take action, and knowing what I know about construction and government processes, the time to act is now.
The company I work for has a very innovative approach to selling equipment. We have tools that can present a customer with their costs, and we can talk all day long about how good our equipment is and we can try to give the best pricing we can to beat our competition.
We also have a great tool that we use to tell the customer what the cost of NOT making a decision is. Whether they choose our equipment or a competitor’s, they are losing “X” dollars every day, every hour, every minute and every second that they don’t make ANY choice. Often, that can be hundreds of dollars per minute.
We have a similar situation in Fort Mill, but we are playing with a much more sacred currency: our children’s futures.
What I have come to realize in the last couple weeks about children in general, and about my kids in particular, is that you never know when they will break out; when they have that spark that ignites a passion and a hunger for learning. You never know when the moment will come that they go from hating school to creating lesson plans for their younger siblings. You never know when those piano lessons that you forced on them will become their passion. And none of us know when or where the next Jonas Salk, Ernest Hemingway, Steve Jobs or Ted Williams will come from.
Why not Fort Mill?
We need to ensure a smooth transition into new facilities and we need to maintain a consistent learning environment. We cannot afford a deferred vote and wait years to come to an agreement on a bond package that everyone can agree on.
To use a phrase from one of my favorite movies: we are not facing a situation of, “If you build it, they will come,” more like a, “They are coming, you’d better build it.”
In the end, no one wants to see their taxes go up; but at the same time, there is a very simple correlation between quality and cost. If you want quality – quality of life, quality of education, quality of recreation – it will cost.
If I can have all that for my children for the cost of a lousy secondhand guitar, I will take that deal any day of the week!
Jim Donohue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.