The Abilene Reflector-Chronicle story Nov. 20 about the Solomon school board meeting after the bond vote and the discussion of Patron Insights triggered a memory of a recent headline from the Nov. 1 Reflector-Chronicle: “Survey firm trying to find out why justice center didn’t pass as predicted.” And then I dug through a pile of Abilene papers and found this headline from June 3: “Survey: Patrons OK with (USD) projects.”

Wow, Patron Insight missed it on the USD 393 bond issue and the Justice Center vote. I seem to recall the Dickinson County commissioners spent $16,000 to find out what “the voters wanted.”  I wonder if the USD 393 school board spent $16,000 as well.

The joys of the modern information age: I “Googled” Patron Insight and found the following:

• They are a push polling firm headquartered in a Stillwell, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City).

• On their website they brag that “We’ve helped our clients raise more than $6.9 billion in new taxes.”

• Patron Insight has nearly 50 school districts in Kansas as clients (USD 393 is one).

• They have six Kansas municipalities (Dickinson County is one) as clients.

In the same Reflector-Chronicle article discussing the USD 393 school board meeting and Patron Insight, there was also a discussion of the VO-AG instructor’s effort to raise money for a greenhouse for the school district. I couldn’t help but wonder if the money spent by the Solomon board on polling would have been better spent on the greenhouse. At least the taxpayers would have had something to show for the money!

Counties, municipalities and school districts are always complaining they don’t have enough funding. The liberal Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that funding for schools is not “adequate,” but they have money to spend on push polling firms. Rep. Barker, maybe you could change the school finance law to prohibit this use (polling of taxpayers) of tax dollars.  

I question the appropriateness of using my tax dollars to do push polling so public officials can spend more of our tax dollars. I can think of a lot better ways to spend tax dollars of $16,000 or maybe $32,000 if we throw in USD 393. Culverts, road repairs, safety equipment for EMS, autopsies or a greenhouse come to mind.

Instead of frittering (and if I was in the barnyard I would use a more graphic description instead of frittering) away money on surveys/polling firms, we should be spending tax dollars based on elected officials who know the needs of the community and, more importantly, know what the community can afford — and not on polls.

— Gary R. Mitchell, Solomon

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