BLOSSBURG - With money tight, the Southern Tioga School District Board did not deny Monday night that it may revisit its decision to go through with a $20 million building project that would reconstruct North Penn High School and remodel Blossburg Elementary School.
A preliminary budget prepared by Business Manager Laura Perry already shows a large tax increase will be needed to meet the local increases in state retirement system payments, health care costs and salaries.
Sullivan Township resident John Ritter said from information he has seen on the district's website, there only will be 2,000 students in schools that have total capacity of 3,000 in the next few years.
"Maybe I'm pushing against a freight train here, but you have a responsibility to make sure our taxpayers aren't paying for things that aren't needed. I want to see every student get a good education, but having empty buildings in this day and age just doesn't make sense," Ritter said, adding "buildings don't teach, teachers teach."
Sue Berguson, of Blossburg, told the board they should have "went with one school for the sake of the students."
She seemed to be torn however, because a few minutes later she told the board, "I think you need to reconsider it, and bag it for now and wait 'til the money comes." She said if it does choose to consolidate, "your budget will take a hit, because parents will take their kids out of school and put them in cyberschool."
Several others encouraged the board to stay the course with its previous decision and move forward with the project.
"I do think having schools not at capacity is a terrible waste, but I think it is a travesty to keep putting Band-aid fixes on our schools. Why not have one school completely renovated so you have a new school? In 10-15 years if we need to consolidate we have a good foundation to do so," said Sarah Herbst, of Blossburg.
Eileen Roupp, of Arnot, said if the project is stopped, "it will cost money to pay everyone involved. I would like to see my money go toward my children's school and not just out the window."
John Martin, of Mansfield, told the board he thinks it needs to keep in mind that the funding of schools and districts is changing.
"You won't be able to get the grants you used to get, so you need to make sure you aren't stepping over dollars to get to pennies," he said.
Ann Harmon, of Blossburg, noted that the money for the project already is borrowed, and "neither of the other two high schools would be capable of taking on our students, so money would have to be spend to make them ready."
Sarah Crossen, a 2007 graduate of North Penn and recent graduate of Penn State University, said she and her fiance want their "future kids to grow up here, to be able to walk downtown and not have to worry about something terrible happening. You made a decision, you were going to renovate and I hope you follow through for the kids now and in the future."
The board's next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the North Penn High School auditorium.