Dear Editor: We would like to take this opportunity to tell the Corry Area School District taxpayers why we chose to vote no for the artificial turf project. Our decision had nothing to do with being against the turf itself — which we aren't — but was directly influenced by the effect it would have on future budgets and the taxpayers themselves
During the 2008-09 school term, the voting members of the Budget and Finance Committee — of which I am one — in conjunction with the Property Committee, made the decision to employ Hallgren, Restifo, Loop & Coughlin Registered Architects to do a districtwide "Existing Building Survey and Feasibility Study.”
This study would enable the district to prioritize the needs of our existing buildings and grounds into a 20-year plan. Our district has an existing 10- and 20-year plan but due to the lagging economy and the fact that we have two schools that soon will reach the point of being qualified for a reimbursable project, it was time to update. The artificial turf project was a part of this study and would have been looked at with the same need versus want standard.
Regarding the mention of excess capital reserve money, Pennsylvania guidelines do state that a school district can retain no more than 8 percent of its total operating budget in that account. At the time we began the survey we did in fact have more than the allowable 8 percent although the state will allow a school district to request a waiver for this excess money if it is allocated to a specific project. In this case the money would have been used to update and improve the high school/middle school and Conelway school, as they will become qualified for a reimbursable project.
While we were aware that the survey would bring problems to light, what we were unaware of were the magnitude of the problems (windows that no longer seal, skylights that leak and need to be replaced, doors that are not handicapped accessible, roofs that need replaced, as well as all the restrooms need to be made to meet handicapped standards). Now the extra money is gone but our district still has very real problems that need to be addressed at a time when taxpayers are facing a failing economy.
Who wouldn't love the artificial turf? We did in fact favor the artificial turf project but not at the expense of our schools. We were looking for a payback plan to reimburse the taxpayers.
The initial request for artificial turf was made over three years ago and was rejected due to an incomplete financial plan. At that time, they were told to do their proposed fundraisers and raise part of the money and we would front them the remainder, but to date no money has ever been raised or grants sought.
Our children spend nine months of the year in our school buildings and we owe it to them to provide a comfortable and safe educational environment. It is situations like this that the 20-year reimbursable project money from the state addresses, but they only pay a portion of the expenses to fix these items and the rest is up to the taxpayer.
So now that we have spent the money on turf and it doesn't appear that there are any intentions of paying the money back for the turf, we will be forced to look to the taxpayers to fund the balance of the needed repairs. This is why I voted no!