I am responding to an anonymous letter I received last week. Usually I file those letter in the waste basket because if, in my opinion, the author doesn't have the guts to sign it they don't deserve to have their opinions heard.
Having said that I feel that other people may share this "local citizen's" anxiety so I felt an obligation to respond. In this letter the misguided author states that Tamaqua Area School District is "spending needless dollars on Geo-Thermal, Solar and locker room projects." There was also a reference to the superintendent and other administrative raises. The person suggested that we eliminate teachers, administrators and other "non essential positions."
Well lets take a look at the FACTS, not that anyone ever cared about the Facts. The Tamaqua Area School District presently spends approximately $600,000 per year on utility costs, which is fuel oil, electric and water and sewer. We cannot do much about water and sewer however oil and electric we can. We converted the senior high school to Geo-Thermal heat and air conditioning approximately two years ago. The senior high was built in 1968 and the electric hearing units were failing on a daily basis. We were spending money to fix or replace 40 plus year old units. The Geo-Thermal project was done with NO TAX DOLLARS. This was a revenue neutral project which means that we saved enough money on electric to pay for the project. As a matter of FACT in the first year of operation the district actually saved more than the projected savings which means that we actually made money on the project. In an attempt to get rid of our need for heating oil, we are currently exploring the prospect of converting the West Penn Elementary, Tamaqua Elementary and Rush Elementary to geo-thermal as well. Granted these projects will increase our electric costs by moving from OIL to geo-thermal; therefore we have hired a company to build a solar grid. In an attempt to make the district energy independent we are looking at solar energy to eventually ELIMINATE the costs of electric. The solar fields will not cost the district one cent. The company who is building the grid and paying for the construction will sell electric to the District for 6.5 cents/KW for the first 10 years and 7.5 /KW an hour for the next 10 years. Now folks look at your electric bill and see what you are paying. This guaranteed contracted price is two-thirds of what your cost is now. After 20 years we will own the solar fields, which means we own the electric generation source. These fields will produce enough electric to provide power for the entire district.
So much for the concern of our wasting money on those projects. As far as raises go, the teachers have agreed to a pay freeze in the school year 2010-11 and the administration, which includes the superintendent and assistant superintendent, will not get raises in 2011-12. Along with those concessions the teachers agreed to a substantial reduction in reimbursements for courses taken which will save the district approximately $125,000 per year. We are trying desperately not to lay any active teachers off due to the potential impact on the educational programs.
The Tamaqua Area School District has been forward thinking and very frugal with its budget and considering the present economic situation, have done a good job for the taxpayers. "No Tax Increase" is a wish to achieve and must give every child an opportunity to prepare for the next phase of their life whether that is in higher education or the workforce. This budget cycle is the most challenging I have ever seen and will take many hours of scrutiny. Remember it is easy to criticize when you don't have the FACTS.
Larry Wittig, president