Regardless of the outcome of the State High referendum vote, dark clouds loom.
Last week, district administration acknowledged as much: When discussing their PSERS retirement funding strategy for district employees, one board member stated, jokingly, “We’re building a ramp up to the cliff.”
Consider this from the latest budget presentation. In the 2012-13 academic year, health care plus retirement expenditures totaled $17.8 million. By 2019-20, those numbers are estimated at $39.6 million, an increase of $21.8 million in only seven years. Even with higher taxes every year through the forecast period, the share of budget dollars devoted to health care/retirement expense rises dramatically, making less money available for other priorities.
And what about taxes? Not only have they risen 16 of the past 17 years, but property taxes in Centre County represent about 3.3 percent of median income, placing us in the top 14 percent of highest taxed counties nationwide. This is before any new taxes are levied for the high school project. If taxes keep rising, we risk stagnant or declining property values, and as our community becomes less affordable, how long until people begin voting with their feet?
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I’m proud to call State College home because of the wonderful people, quality of life, and, yes, because we have terrific schools. We’re facing the same issues as many other communities and, indeed, our nation as a whole. We must work together to find a solution; endless taxation is unsustainable.