Let's see … life in 2014 includes heating fuel at nearly $4 a gallon, gasoline at $3.60 a gallon (with a guaranteed increase in Pennsylvania gas taxes in 2015 and 2017 thanks to Gov. Corbett), county property taxes increased 48 percent, food prices such that nearly 50 million people are on food stamps and medical costs exploding for all but the poorest of Americans.
All this and much more coming out of the pockets of taxpayers.
That being said, I think questions we should be asking include do we "need" to or do we "want" to build and renovate?
The operative word here is need. Has a building inspector toured these buildings and generated a report of "needed" improvements and estimated costs for the safety and well-being of the students and faculty? Or has an architect, who is paid on a commission based on costs, simply put together a wish list with the help of the administration?
Why do we need to spend more than $8 million on a relatively new high school? Have those who the taxpayers put in charge of maintaining our buildings been performing their duties, or are we building throwaway structures that are replaced every few decades?
What does the future hold? With Internet technologies, will brick-and-mortar buildings be a thing of the past? I remember 20 years ago the school administration told the taxpayers that the old 1st and 3rd Ward buildings and the old junior high school were no longer suitable for our children.
Those buildings were sold for pennies on the dollar and still stand today, having found other uses.
Can the taxpayers of the Lehighton Area School District afford a $38 million project? From what I've read, the wish list is $52 million minus $14 million that may possibly be reimbursed by the state. If the state money fails, we are on the hook for $52 million plus whatever cost overruns occur.
Real estate taxes today significantly add to the cost of homeownership. Holding a perpetual mortgage on our property, in the form of property taxes, just isn't right in my mind.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure we even own property today. Do we own or are we simply renting our property from some government entity? (Don't pay your taxes and see who owns your property.)
Do I think this is affordable or even needed? Not until someone shows me an inspection report generated by a competent professional who is NOT paid on a commission basis.
Or, better yet, show me a crystal ball saying the school district has the winning lottery ticket. But then again, some politicians think the taxpayers "are" a winning lottery ticket.
Duane A. Dellecker, PA Certified BuildingCode Official