Letter to the Editor

Reader wants best for school corporation

Sunday, April 6, 2008

To the Editor:

Last August, I contacted the school corporation requesting the ages of our buildings and received a sheaf of papers outlining the $53 million renovation project proposal, but no answer to the question. Upon looking at these papers, I found that they had a lot of figures and drawings on them, but very little to explain why the renovations were needed. I thought that it was odd that there was no text explaining what the needs were. From that point, I started taking more interest in the operation of our school corporation and found that it has many more problems than most people realize, but most of the students are still getting educated so the problems are overlooked by the public until it shows up in the headlines.

Something must be done with our buildings and our budget to get the most out of every dollar that the corporation takes from the taxpayer. This is why I have consistently asked for justification of the need rather than for someone's opinion that there is a need. Needs that can be justified as a requirement of the law, as a requirement of curriculum that we are required by law to support, or that can be justified by sound reasoning are things that we must pay for. Needs that are solely supported by opinions based upon unfounded fears, such as the replacement of modular buildings because of weather or security on school property for students who are exposed to the weather and at risk getting to school, opinions that upgrades are needed yet no explanation of when we would recoup the cost of investment is offered, or opinions that replacement is needed, such as carpeting, when the inclusion of such may well be detrimental to the health of our students and staff according to national organizations such as the American Association of School Administrators, are bad investments.

Everything that our school corporation pays for needs to be justified. To do otherwise is financially foolhardy.

It was alleged that I erred in my calculations of costs of renovation versus new construction.

At least I did a comparison but it would have been better had the school corporation did that before deciding to pursue the renovations. I see that any cost of the project that is required by the project as cost, period. We would not have to pay out that money otherwise.

I find no indication from the Department of Local Government Finance that "soft costs" are excluded from the cost of construction or renovation. Perhaps the school corporation would like to provide a reference?

Should the remonstration succeed, it is a fallacy that we can do nothing for a year. We can come up with a "substantially different" plan (IC 6-1.1-20-3.2), which is why I sent an e-mail to the school corporation letting them know that I was submitting the petition to begin the petition and remonstration process.

We need to get this accomplished, but the right way.

Leo Southworth,