Opinion

Our View | State High referendum deserves yes vote

The outside of the State College Area High School South Building on Saturday, May 17, 2014. Students often have to cross the parking lots and street between the north and south buildings during the school day. Administrators and board members are encouraging voters to say yes to the referendum in Tuesday’s election.
The outside of the State College Area High School South Building on Saturday, May 17, 2014. Students often have to cross the parking lots and street between the north and south buildings during the school day. Administrators and board members are encouraging voters to say yes to the referendum in Tuesday’s election. CDT photo

It’s time for voters in the State College Area School District to invest in their young people and their community.

We urge voters to support the State College Area High School referendum on Tuesday.

When that happens, the real work and responsibility will begin for the school district, which has done an admirable and exhaustive job of communicating its plans for the school project and the financial commitment it will bring.

If voters say yes to the high school, the district must work to control costs at every step in the process and continue to seek out other avenues of funding to help offset what taxpayers are asked to provide. District leaders must bring in the project at or under expected and communicated budget levels.

Voters will be asked to support the district taking on $85 million in debt to develop a new high school complex on Westerly Parkway, with much of the learning based where the South Building now stands.

We have seen diagrams and heard the presentations about the proposed project. We believe it meets the needs of the community and the educational mission of the district.

That said, it is not without reservations that we endorse passage of the school referendum.

Like many others, including those on fixed incomes, we would prefer to not see the added costs a major project will inevitably bring. But as a region we cannot avoid all expenses. We must recognize necessary investments and go about the planning and execution in a cost-conscious way, considering all who are affected.

In the case of the school referendum, that includes businesses and individual taxpayers as well as teachers, administrators, students and the parents of those who will attend a refurbished and enhanced State High.

One strong argument for embracing the project is that to do nothing is not an option. Costly repairs and upgrades will be needed whether the referendum passes or not.

The new State High will be more efficient, easier to heat and cool, and provide a healthier, safer environment for students who learn in its classrooms and who now must cross a busy street between classes.

Another strong argument, put forth by the Chamber of Business of Centre County and others, is that a new high school would elevate the Centre Region’s attractiveness to potential investors and job-seekers, and would raise property values and add to the local quality of life. We agree.

We applaud school leaders for their efforts to bring residents into the process of considering, proposing and supporting this school project — knowing full well the odds at the outset did not favor the referendum getting enough votes at the polls.

School board members have held forums on the project, have visited with individuals and groups in the community and have offered tours that provided residents a full view of the current school facilities and their shortcomings

The district has maintained an informative website (www.scasd.org) that includes a tax calculator to help homeowners predict what this referendum would mean for their personal finances.

The lines of communication have been wide open. Voters can go to the polls Tuesday fully armed with knowledge about the State High situation and the referendum.

So armed, voters of the State College Area School District should embrace this project and pass the referendum to fund it.

The State High project gets our strong endorsement and deserves the community’s support at the polls Tuesday.

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