The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 2, 2014

The cost to start over


— Dr. Mark DiRocco has twice now thrown out the number of $800,000. This is the number the Lewisburg Area School District has so far invested in the current planning of the new high school project.

The first time was on Feb. 18, at a school board meeting when he said “I don’t see any reason why the board would want to go back and revisit other options of how to put together the master facilities plan. We are over $800,000 into this design process. Why would we waste all that money and all that effort and go back to square one?” He reaffirmed this point in an e-mail sent out, to what I can only assume is every e-mail address in the district’s address book, when discussing the financing of the debt needed for this project.

I have not spent my life in public service; I have spent it in business. In businesses, at least successful ones, we do not measure the merit of a plan based on how much we have spent on it. There is a threshold at which most businesses know when to implement a measure of cutting ones losses. When you have a bad plan, you do not continue to dump money into it simply because you have already spent a good deal of money on it — we call that throwing good money after bad.  At some point, you say, enough is enough, and regardless of how much we have spent on this, it is not going to work, and we need to start over; to spend more money on this plan just takes time and money away from the successful venture.

When you look at the alternate proposal put forth by Erin Jablonski at the very same school board meeting that Dr. DiRocco asked why they would start over after having invested so much money, the answer should be obvious. Dr. Jablonski presented a plan that would provide a similar size and caliber facility at the existing location for $3 million. Dr. DiRicco would like to build a facility that will cost $64 million. These numbers including interest on the debt — a much more accurate representation of costs to us, the tax payers. So, if you were to “start over” and add that $800,000 already spent to the $31 million – round it up to $32 million, the new plan still costs $32 million less.  

That is 40 times the amount of savings that Dr. DiRicco is worried about losing by starting over. As a taxpayer that sounds like a very good reason to start over. But I supposed I am caught up in being a successful business owner ... we do things differently.  

Justin Charles,

Lewisburg