Indiana, PA - Indiana County

GAZETTE EDITORIAL: Irresponsible representation on IASD board

on May 11, 2017 10:59 AM
Indiana, PA

Being an elected official who represents the divergent interests of your constituents can be a tricky business. Do you vote the way that your constituents want? Or do you, as an elected official, make the “tough” vote that is needed but won’t necessarily make you popular with voters?

That is the quandary faced by members of the Indiana Area school board as they move forward on a $32 million school building project. But this time there is a twist.

The board is not trying to curry favor with voters demanding the board undertake a special interest project to update the district’s elementary infrastructure. Rather, the board is defying public pressure against a project the board created on its own and decided was the right thing to do.

Judging from the outcry against the project, there appear to be few taxpayers who think this was a wise choice.

In the past we have seen evidence that when parents think something is necessary for the successful education of their children, they can become an irresistible force, overcoming concerns about costs and taxes.

In this case, no such groundswell in favor of the project has materialized. In fact, we have seen the opposite.

IASD residents are rightly concerned that too many of our future tax dollars will be buried in bricks and mortar. They fear there will be little left to invest toward improving the education of students. We share that concern.

As we stated in an earlier editorial, IASD’s students are doing just fine, thank you, with the current infrastructure. Their educational achievements rank them enviously high in the state. They are doing it with the current elementary school infrastructure so we can check off the box that IASD is meeting the goals of the parents and community already.

At the school board meeting earlier this week, the school board announced that there will be an additional interest expense of $685,000 to cover this. And that represents only about two-thirds of the money to be borrowed. The proposed 3 percent increase in property tax will be one of many in the next two decades, if this project is allowed to move forward.

The question to the board members who support this project is how will this investment fulfill the mission of making student outcomes in the future even better than they are for those who are graduating now? What incremental improvement will occur while the district is paying $1 million from 2018-19 to 2026-27 on bond interest alone, and then about $4 million annually from 2028-29 to 2035-36 on the bond’s principal?

What could taxpayers do if that money was left in their pockets?

The conundrum is not the typical one that elected officials face. The special interest group here is made up of members of the board’s majority themselves. They have created a need where this is none — a veritable bridge to nowhere.

The decision that it appears the board is about to make is clearly not one that the majority of constituents want, and they are the ones who will have to pay for this decision. And it is one that will be an anchor around the necks of taxpayers in IASD for decades.

Stop before it is too late.

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