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Penny’s Two Cents

Posted on Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:16 am

I’m sure most of us have wondered at some point in our life what we would do if we had a million dollars. In fact, a popular band in the late 1990s even wrote a song about what they would buy “If I Had a Million Dollars.”  After winning $1 million in the lottery earlier this month, Gary Mellon of Lake St. Louis is now contemplating what he would do with $1 million. It’s rare that those daydreams of spending $1 million would come true for most, but right now school districts across the State of Missouri are contemplating this very question.

Turning the daydream of “if I had a million dollars” into a reality lies in the voters on Nov. 6. You’ve probably seen the “Enough is Enough” signs, appropriately posted by convenience stores, but heard very little about the matter. The measure is called Proposition B and is requesting an increase to cigarette sales tax of 73 cents. If 73 cents is giving you “sticker shock,” you should know Missouri has the LOWEST cigarette tax in the country. If passed, Proposition B would:

• Prevent more than 40,000 Missouri kids from becoming smokers by setting aside 20 percent of the revenue for smoking cessation and prevention programs (for adults and kids). Each year, 8,600 Missouri kids pick up smoking as a habit.

• Generate $223 million in revenue for elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools throughout Missouri.

• Generate nearly $1 million for the Lincoln County R-III Schools.

• Help fill the gaps left by a non-fully funded education formula and slashed incidental funding over the past several years.

• Have strong safeguards and require annual audits to prevent revenue from being redirected (similar to the 1982 one cent education sales tax, which has been left alone for three decades).

For Lincoln County R-III, the passage of Proposition B would equate to $950,000 in additional revenue. So, what would Lincoln County R-III do with a million dollars? I’ve toyed with a few ideas from time to time, but one idea that comes back to me is building a much deserved Performing Arts Center that would also serve the community as a severe weather center, too.

I would set aside the additional revenue and seek grants for a severe weather facility to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), which has the grant money available. I recently visited Linn State Technical College, which had a multi-purpose facility for their school that was also built to serve as the community’s storm center.

If I had a million dollars I could help keep community residents safe in the path of a storm, showcase our wonderfully-deserving Fine Arts Department and prevent thousands of kids from picking up a bad habit. Sounds like a daydream come true, but before the election on Tuesday do your own research. I found a wealth of information with a simple Google search. Until then, I will keep thinking about what I would do “if I had a million dollars.”

By Mark Penny