LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – In their wildest dreams, members of the Pottsgrove School District Board of School Directors would like nothing better than to see Pottsgrove High School‘s cafeteria packed tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009) with talkative taxpayers, brim-full of ideas and opinions about renovating district school buildings.
The best dreams probably envision taxpayers talking in calm, moderate voices, expressing thoughts in an orderly and respectful fashion. Whether those dreams are realized or not remains to be seen, but board members have made it clear: discussion’s what they’re interested in, beginning at 7 p.m. at the high school, 1345 Kauffman Rd.
District administrators and the board, during the past year, commissioned a feasibility study that documented the deteriorating state of Ringing Rocks Elementary School, the possible need for expansion of the high school and district offices, and the desirability of adding athletic fields. Public presentation of the study’s results last November drew a substantial crowd and lots of comment.
Now the board hopes for “continued input as we move forward,” district Superintendent Dr. Bradley Landis wrote in a widely distributed January letter. Directors, during their Jan. 13 meeting, said they were willing to devote several hours to hear their constituents tell how they feel about the prospect of spending millions of dollars on renovations and upgrades.
Board members have some inkling of what they may hear tonight.
“It’s a really ugly time to do something like this,” director and board Treasurer Fred Remelius said of the prospective improvements during the Jan. 13 meeting. A national recession, continuing announcements of job layoffs, and an increasingly tighter local economy all weigh heavily on the public consciousness, board members agree. “And,” board Secretary Scott Fulmer added, “it’s not going to get any better out there.”
Due in large part to their sensitivity to taxpayer worries about the economy, board members voted last month to limit the district’s 2009-2010 budget to no more than the $52 million allowed under a state mathematical formula called the Act 1 index. The formula also restricts to 5.2 percent the amount the district can increase its tax rate during the next 12 months.
“We want to send a signal to the public that we understand, that we get it,” board member Nancy Landes said of the limitation.
Some of the district’s physical assets nonetheless need repair, if not outright replacement, Landis’ letter notes. “Sooner or later … even a well-maintained school building needs work beyond … paint and windows. Pipes in the walls corrode. Roofs leak. Heating systems fail. Schools built in the 1960s and ’70s are no longer energy efficient and leak thousands of dollars each year in lost energy costs. School safety and security is another concern, as these buildings must now adapt to new issues”, he wrote.
“Pottsgrove School District is now at the point,” according to its superintendent, “where we must evaluate some of our school buildings which are in need of extensive work if we are to get another 30 years of life from them.” He and board members want that evaluation to include plenty of public thinking.