A middle school of million-dollar knocks | AspenTimes.com

A middle school of million-dollar knocks

Roger Marolt

By now I’m sure you’re sorting through all of the same information that I am regarding the question of whether we should spend $33 million to rebuild the middle school and make a few improvements at the elementary school. I, for one, do not want to argue about any of the facts and figures that are being presented. The folks in favor of the new project have demonstrated their concern for our well-being by doing a lot of PR to make sure we vote correctly in November. As they have gone to this trouble, I feel it is only fair to take their message at face value. They say that the new middle school will cost a paltry $124 per year for each $1 million our homes are worth. For that, we will get a very nice school that every family in the valley will want their kids to go to. It will be filled to capacity in no time at all. So tell me, what kind of a misanthropic miser living in a million-dollar palace wouldn’t be willing to cough up $10.33 a month to build a new, packed-to-the-rafters school for our children? Seriously. But, when you think about it, this amount is so insignificant that it makes me wonder if we aren’t short-changing ourselves. If we spend only a great deal of money, I’m afraid we’ll end up with only a great school. That’s not good enough for Aspen. We need extravagant!I mean really, any simple-minded teenager buying his first hotrod knows how you go about making a large purchase. Let’s see how much we can spend per month first and work backward! Forget the stodgy financial “experts” who will have you believe that the extremely large underlying principal amount is what matters.Man, I should think anyone who lives in a million-dollar home in Aspen would feel that they were getting off easy if asked to spend even a hundred bucks a month for a new school. And that’s almost 10 times what the current plan calls for! Do you realize what this means? A community of our stature ought to easily afford a $330 million middle school!Just think, with that kind of loot, we could build a theater and a gymnasium for every grade level. Our middle school library could rival Harvard University’s. How about climate-controlled domes with retractable roofs for the new football and soccer stadiums? We could build indoor, heated parking lots. Can you imagine a five-star gourmet cafeteria? Mmmm, mmm!All this would cost the average million-dollar-homeowner only $3 per day. What heartless caffeine-deprived grouch among us wouldn’t give up just one cup of Zélé coffee each morning for our children? I certainly would be willing to give up my half-cup of decaf for that. I am also hearing that the building will last for 50 years. Despite the fact that no school in the history of this valley has lasted that long, we have to trust the judgment of the experts who calculated this number. What that means is that we basically have one shot to do this thing right. If this is our one chance, let’s make sure that everyone in the community, who wants to, has a say about what this monument … err … school should be. The sky is the limit!Even if the cost eventually creeps up to around $500 million, that would mean that our hypothetical owner of a million-dollar home would only have to pay $35 per week in additional taxes. That’s the cost of lunch at a downtown restaurant. Now tell me, what callous, calorie-counting penny-pincher wouldn’t give up lunch at some hoity-toity uptown restaurant once a week for our precious kids?Proponents are also warning us that in places where schools are neglected, property values plummet. Fat chance here you say, but the school supporters have undoubtedly done their research and have statistics to prove that this will indeed occur in Aspen if we don’t build this new building immediately. Though the actual logic used in getting there is a little fuzzy, the proponents imply that fabulous new facilities will actually enhance property values. I’m concerned, therefore I am convinced.However, I see this revelation causing two different reactions. First, wealthy homeowners who own millions of dollars in real estate will want to be careful not to shortchange their investments. So, why would they vote to spend the measly $33 million for this school when expending more will escalate property values beyond anyone’s wildest imagination? This is a huge incentive for even those wealthy people who don’t give a damn about children. On the other hand, a crappy old middle school may well be the last hope for a downward-spiraling real estate market that could finally lead to many locals owning their dream homes in the West End. Who could have guessed that solving the local housing crisis was as simple as letting our school buildings go to crap? Presumably we could spend a little extra money and hire good teachers so that our kids still get a decent education as long as the buildings they study in look like hell.Now, I must disclose that I have been approached several times to publicly support the new middle school project with very flattering messages. Previously unbeknownst to me, I am an incredibly intelligent, clever, thoughtful, creative, wise, fit, handsome, young-looking father who drives a beautiful-color car and speaks for a huge segment of our local population. My insight is valuable and my opinions much respected. Still, I am left to wonder why nobody asked for my perspective when the plans for this school were being drawn up and I could have actually had some impact. In any event, I sincerely want to thank the PR firm and the people who hired it for getting the information out. I truly want a new middle school and this community needs it. However, as their information indicates, there are more unanswered questions than not surrounding this project. It needs to go back to the drawing board for more community input. In the meantime, did you realize that for less than one penny of additional taxes per minute for each million dollars of property value, we could build a $1 billion middle school? That’s less than what most long-distance phone calls cost. Who doesn’t think that our children, the future of modern civilization, are more important than a lousy cross-country telephone call? Roger Marolt believes that unsolicited answers to irrelevant questions are intended to gloss over real issues. He’s mulling it over at roger@maroltllp.com