By now I think just about every news junkie in the United States associates Joplin Missouri with tornadoes. Our local newspaper, the Joplin Globe, has finally published a roundup of something I’ve been waiting for ever since our town was hit last May 22 by that massive EF-5 twister, an accounting of financial aid. We have received a lot of it, ranging from federal, state and charitable. Unfortunately, the accounting is incomplete, and what is missing is the insurance coverage on the damaged schools.
The article in the Globe summarized the case this way:
“The $62 million is part of a $185 million building initiative the district is launching to rebuild tornado-damaged buildings, install tornado shelters and make improvements and repairs to some other schools. Approximately $121.3 million is money the district has from insurance settlements or expects from state and federal sources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
Thus we are left wondering how much of the $121.3 million is insurance money and how much is government assistance? And this also begs the question, were the school buildings, like my own house for example, insured for full replacement value or not? And, if they were, then how will the city fathers justify the $60,000,000 bond issue to be placed before school district voters this coming April?
That these figures haven’t’ been broken out makes me, as a homeowner, suspicious. I’m not paranoid yet, just skeptical. As I understand it, our schools were fully insured, and on top of that we got massive aid. So, I have questions:
1. How much of that aid went to cleanup?
2. How much aid money is available for rebuilding?
3. If we were fully insured, why do we need an extra 60 million dollar tax burden that is going to boost property taxes?
I want Joplin to have great schools, and I know that the physical buildings and facilities are important. They not only encourage the process of education but attract teaching talent and benefit businesses. Fine. But I am concerned that civic leaders might find it too tempting to capitalize on tornado sympathy to build facilities larger and more ornate than what is required. But here’s the bottom line: in a democracy the voting public deserves to know the plain facts. I call on the media and the local government to lay everything on the table, and do it in time for public discussions well before the April ballot.