The Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 provides voters in every Pennsylvania school district the final say on extraordinary tax increases.
School boards may raise property taxes pegged to inflation. The State College Area School District high school project does not qualify as an exception for emergency or educational necessity.
A referendum seeks to approve a $115 million project ($85 million new spending, total $166 million new debt). The property tax increase is 7.2 percent (2.75 mills). The referendum is required for an extraordinary tax increase.
That is a new tax 3.75 times higher than the proposed 1.95 percent 2014-15 tax increase.
A referendum is not a public contract or binding resolution. Nothing precludes a next school board from significantly changing the project or a construction cost that exceeds $115 million.
Since 2006, 16 school referendums were presented in Pennsylvania; 15 failed voter approval.
Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, architects specializing in referendum-funded projects and now used by SCASD, were involved with eight failures and no successes.
Two districts (Donegal and Tuscarora) built schools after failed referendums for costs 50 percent and 25 percent less. The success (Upper Dublin) incurred financial problems and staff reductions that endure today.
The district says it can afford $30 million from its existing budget. Millions of dollars of expiring debt and 5 percent new revenue will be available each year, and modest new debt within Act 1 limits is available.
That is the solution to renovating the high school judiciously.
Don Gordon, Patton Township