To the editor:
The Indian Creek Local School District board is proposing another levy on the March 6 ballot to build a new high school. Realistically, our current economic climate is stressed and cannot support a $29 million structure that will burden taxpayers for the next 37 years.
There are too many negatives relative to a viable plan for a new costly structure. Our major employers, the steel industry, are stalled with no tangible signs of recovery, our population is shrinking, the average age of our residents is older with 68 percent retired on fixed income and young families may have to leave the area to find employment since their unemployment benefits have been exhausted. The only positive sign on the horizon is the Marcellus shale drilling, which promises new jobs but is still in the speculative stages. If this materializes, the initial influx of jobs will eventually give way from temporary to minimal permanent positions. We cannot rely on an uncertain economic boom as an acceptable solution before committing to a $22 million expenditure (plus a $7 million subsidy from the state).
Local school boards are a key mechanism to the mutually dependent relationship between the school administration and the taxpayer. By engaging the broad public, the school board and superintendent can determine how the taxpayers, homeowners and business people are perceived. Without mutual public input, school board members cannot disseminate the public's needs and tolerance, so as people become separated from school board decisions, they become alienated or indifferent toward approving new levies. These same school officials are entrusted by the people to be the watchdogs and oversight for the operation of the student's academic needs and logistical safety while observing some parity for the taxpayers. The board members must be admonished to resist affronting the public with levies void of a published feasibility study which could provide sufficient data to justify their proposal. All the aforementioned negatives from a study would manifest that this huge expenditure is not reasonably sustainable under our uncertain economic environment.
A more pragmatic approach to the current dilemma offers two scenarios. One would be to make due with what we have by upgrading absolute necessities either with the current budget or if necessary, imposing a minimal levy to cover costs. The other alternative would be very unpopular but still offers a solution, and that would be consolidation. Remember, the $7 million offered by the state for this new school is not free money - these are still your tax dollars, and, if used, will just add $7 million more to the current state deficit. We all want better education and new buildings, unfortunately the state, the school district and, especially, our retirees have a common ailment - a shortage of money. We cannot keep spending money we do not have at this time. We cannot justify an additional 4.95-mill levy for the next 37 years and we must control our mortgaging of the future.