The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 14, 2014

LASD in giving mood


The Daily Item

— In the spirit of the holiday season the Lewisburg Area School District (LASD) is giving its residents and taxpayers (whether they want it or not) a brand new $30-plus million high school in Kelly Township. This will be the gift that keeps on giving, or shall we say taking, as in tax money out of your hard earned paycheck over the next 25 years. To put it in, perspective a person age 55 now will be 80 when this new school is paid off.

The school board president and superintendent have repeatedly stated the LASD has the money, can afford this project, and that there is no better time to act than the present. When you hear statements like this as a citizen you assume it to be true and think they must have a significant nest egg in the bank for a down payment on the project. After all you can trust your elected school board right? Wrong!

The truth is the LASD intends to finance this project with a massive loan that the taxpayers must pay back (they call it a bond). Initial estimates are this bond (loan) could be anywhere from $30 to $37 million. Even better is the LASD does not have enough money saved for this project to make a 10 percent or 20 percent down payment, which is what the typical homeowner has to do when taking out a mortgage to purchase a home. Unfortunately they don’t have to play by the same rules as us hardworking tax payers because they are using all of us, our earnings, and property values as their collateral.

It’s even more laughable when the superintendent tells the public that a tax increase won’t be necessary to pay for the new high school but a couple statements later indicates they will need to raise taxes for teacher salaries, pensions, and other costs. Could we avoid the tax increases for those items if we weren’t spending $30-plus  million elsewhere? Truth be told, the LASD has proven time and time again it is like a substance abuser when it comes to our tax dollars. It can never get enough to fulfill that insatiable appetite and must keep coming back for more year after year.  

To prove this point research at the Union County Tax Assessment Office shows for a fact the LASD has consistently raised our property taxes every year but one since 2001, and each time they magically did it in a way to avoid a voter referendum on the issue. Furthermore since 2006 school taxes have increased 30 percent going from 12.4 to 16.06 mills. For comparison during this same time period Social Security recipients only received a cumulative COLA raise of 18 percent. Also how many taxpayers saw a 30 percent rise in income the last seven years? Probably not very many because that was during the country’s deep financial crisis when jobs were being cut severely (as evidenced by the spike in local unemployment), mortgages foreclosed at alarming rates, and major U.S. companies were being bailed out from the brink of bankruptcy. I think you get the picture.  

As you can see the aforementioned tax hikes occurred in frail economic times when there was not a $30 to $37 million construction project in the pipeline. Seriously, what do you think the LASD will do now when they are undertaking a massive building project and think the economy has improved? If you believe they won’t raise your taxes to pay for the new high school then maybe you believe in Santa Claus, too!

Chris Reeder,

Lewisburg