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Opinion

Times change, and school facilities should, too

SoVaNow.com / October 17, 2019
By BRIAN BROWN
Executive Director
Halifax County Industrial Development Authority

Special to the News & Record

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

As I approach the milestone of my 50th birthday, I have had time to reflect on the great marvels and tragedies of my lifetime. I remember things like the gas shortages of the 1970s, to the devastating rains from Hurricane Juan in 1985, explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union, the Gulf War, the events of 9-11, the war in Afghanistan, and so many more.

However, I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention the rise of technology. I was very fortunate to have a father who worked in data processing dating back to the 1970s. I remember going to work with him and watching a very large machine run punch card programs for everything from orders to payroll. I had one of the first portable computers, a Commodore SX64 with a five-inch screen and thermal printer. The clunky unit had all of 64 Kilobytes of RAM memory and a 5-1/4 inch disk drive. But to me it was one of the coolest things I ever had the opportunity to touch.

I tell this story for this: think of the technologies that are available today. There are laptops with a terabyte of memory or more. Think back to the historic framework the builders and designers of schools and other government buildings during the era of the 1970s. There was no way they could have foreseen the growth of technology necessary to provide a quality education in the global economy we have today.

I remember teachers using overhead projectors and chalkboards. Technology was typing class. I didn’t experience shared computer labs until college. Now students are learning on smart boards, cell phones and laptops. As technological advancement continues to move, our educational facilities must adapt as well. Access to the latest technology is key to providing a quality education.

“We shape our buildings: Thereafter, they shape us.” — Winston Churchill

Throughout my career, I have seen the impact school buildings have on the students, but also a community. Schools are a great source for community involvement, outreach, and even assistance in time of need. School buildings are used for community forums, emergency shelters, artistic expression, recreation, entertainment, and workforce training. Studies have shown lighting, ventilation, safety, coloring and other building systems can have an impact on productivity and morale.

As a trained workforce becomes more and more important to the health of business and industry, communities across the nation are working diligently to build a strong workforce. Halifax County must be no different. School systems play a vital role in the educational pipeline for the business community. We must provide an engaged and trained workforce for the future of our existing industry as well as the emerging companies looking for future locations. If we don’t address our challenges, we risk falling behind.

It is with this knowledge and experience, as executive director of the Halifax IDA and a new resident to Halifax County, I am supporting the referendum for the one percent sales tax increase for school construction projects in the county. I believe that we should support stronger schools in an effort to provide the education needed to meet the new challenges of business and industry.

These are the reasons I am supporting the referendum. There is another reason for you to do so. The bottom line is money. With changes to technology, school safety, and Americans with Disability Act requirements, I believe something will have to be done. Halifax County will either renovate or build a new high school. Systems fail with age. Just as with a house, after so long, you must eventually do renovations for the house to remain architecturally sound.

There will be a bill for this. The question is: Do you want to have someone else pay part of the cost? Tourism accounts for approximately 20% of the sales tax dollars raised in the most recent study by the Virginia Tourism Board on expenditures in Halifax County. Those dollars are from outside the county and will come in every year.

I will break it down another way. Imagine you have a $1,000 house payment. Someone is agreeing to pay $200 per month for your mortgage. Would you accept it? That is what is on the table.

New construction or renovation, something is going to be done to the high school in the future. If the referendum fails, we will pay the entire cost.

I strongly encourage you to join me and vote “yes” to the one percent increase to the sales tax for school construction on Nov. 5.





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