Patton Township business group urges businesses to back State College referendum

bmilazzo@centredaily.comMarch 26, 2014 

State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell talks about the high school project referendum at the Patton Township Business Association monthly meeting on Wednesday.



    On May 20, State College Area School District residents who are registered to vote will be asked to accept or deny a plan to approve expansions and renovations to the high school. A “yes” by popular vote will approve funding for the project.

    The ballot question will ask: “Shall debt in the sum of eighty-five million dollars for the purpose of financing new construction and renovations for the State College Area High School be authorized to be incurred as debt approve by the electors?”

— David Panko is asking fellow business owners to vote in favor of the State College Area High School referendum May 20.

On Wednesday afternoon, two school board members and Superintendent Bob O’Donnell discussed the project at the monthly Patton Township Business Association meeting at the township Municipal Building.

The district has come up with a $115 million school improvement plan that includes an update to aging and deficient facilities, increased safety and security measures, and educational enhancements. This would include $85 million in taxpayer dollars to help pay for the project — a tax increase that Panko said is worth approving.

A State High project proposal in 2006-07 did not have buy-in from the business community. School leaders have been meeting with groups and hosting forums this time to get the word out about their project.

“When the expansion was first introduced (in 2006), the community had no clue what was going on,” said Panko, the association’s president. “The school district just said there was going to be an expansion and no one else had a say.”

O’Donnell said the board voted to kill the original expansion in 2007.

School board Vice President Amber Concepcion said that 7,000 surveys were sent to residents who helped the board pick its final design concept.

“I think this would be an extraordinary addition to the business community and the community at large,” Panko said. “They made a necessary effort to accommodate the needs of the community and justified the tax increase.”

He said the Centre Region could maintain its high quality of life by enhancing its school facilities, resources and quality of education.

A statement from the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County said the business community recognizes that a quality education system is important to economic growth and quality of life.

“In fact, site selectors routinely list the quality of a community’s education system as a key factor in business location decisions,” said Lesley Kist-ner, CBICC communications director. “The chamber supports efforts generally to improve the educational system, including ensuring that K-12 facilities and programming meet the needs of today’s students, as well as the expectations of post-secondary educational institutions and future employers.”

Jim Owen, of Kish Bank on North Atherton Street, said that if the project passes, it would be beneficial from a business standpoint, but he doesn’t personally support it.

“We can have a great economy of education without the brick and mortar of a superstructure,” Owen said. “I think we can better use our resources.”

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