Are small towns killing themselves?

Greenville High School--Greenville, Ohio

Quiet streets. Rush hour means three cars deep at a red light. My grandmother knows your grandmother. Going to the grocery and seeing 20 people you know.

This is life in a small town.

It’s often over-romanticized. But the small town life is still what I prefer. To me, Muncie, where I live now, is a big city. It’s not big enough to have bad traffic other than at all-you-can-eat buffets, but anywhere with a multi-screened movie theater and a mall is a big city in my book.

One of the small towns that I’ve called home over the years is Greenville, Ohio. It’s where we went for groceries, swim classes, the dentist, and – up until last year – where my day job was.

But small towns are often small towns for a reason: there aren’t many opportunities in small towns. Such is the case with Greenville. A lot of my friends from high school don’t live anywhere near where we grew up.

Greenville is the county seat of Darke County. In Darke County only 33% of households have kids under the age of 18, which is far below the national average of 46%. What does this mean?

It means that I can’t remember the last time a school levy of any significance passed in the county. The attitude seems to be, “My taxes put my kids through school, by God am I going to pay more in taxes to put other people’s kids through school!”

And that attitude just defeated a $2.9 million bond issue that would’ve secured $19 million in state-funding to build a new school.

From the Daily Advocate:
Darke County Board of Election officials released the unofficial ballot votes of 2698 for (49.27 percent) and 2778 against (50.73 percent)

There are still 136 provisional ballots out there, but it’s doubtful the outcome will change.

The Greenville schools can kiss $19 million and a shiny new school that might attract employers goodbye. The cost is a little over $100/year per $100,000 of home value. I’m not for throwing away money myself, but chances are a new school would increase your home’s value more than the tax would cost in the long run.

Does Greenville need a new school? One day Last year school was canceled when parts of the middle school actually started to fall off. An elementary school running out of room (because of consolidations not enrollment increases) had to bring in trailers (aka mobile classrooms). If you’re being taught in something that can be pulled down the road by a semi-truck, you have to question what kind of education you are getting.

I heard about a business that was thinking about moving into the area and when they saw the lack of support for the schools, they decided to go elsewhere. Another business in the county has a satellite office in Dayton for their engineers because no one wants to live in Darke County.

No one wants to live there except the people that already do. And the people that already do have kids that move away and never come back. The number of households with children in school continues to decrease and the community continues to age and die.

Small towns want to hang onto their small-towness, but they vote down a thing that could help preserve their lifestyle and assure a future for their kids and grand-kids.

It’s easy to be nostalgic about small towns. It’s not easy to be nostalgic about ignorance.

Small towns like Greenville are killing themselves, and it’s tough to feel sorry for them.

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