Altoona must consider its declining tax base

Before a decision is made to spend $90 million to build a new high school, some things to consider: There’s a good likelihood a school voucher system is going to come that will cause many parents to place their children in private schools, thus less money will be available to public schools for construction.

The population of our area for the previous decades has been decreasing, which has resulted in smaller class sizes for high school graduation.

For example, my mom graduated in 1966 from Altoona High School in a senior class of 1,300 students. I graduated from AAHS in 1990 with about 740 students, and last year’s senior class had about 500 students.

The tax base for the city of Altoona continues to decrease as many people with higher income brackets move to the surrounding area.

We have an aging population, many of whom are dependent on social security for their retirement income. Unless something changes, within 15-20 years Social Security payouts will decrease by 25 percent, while the cost of living and medical costs will likely increase. How will increases in school tax thus affect those with limited incomes?

The state is trying to figure out how to fund its pension plans for state employees, which could make state funding and grants less available. As such, local taxpayers should be prepared to pay more of the future cost of education.

One of the arguments for building the new school is that if we don’t, we will miss out on about 20 percent of the cost being reimbursed to the school district by the state government. We should be concerned what strings will be attached to that money.

For example, we only receive about 5-7 percent of our school budget from the federal government. Despite this, after the previous administration sent its “Dear Colleague,” letter many school districts acquiesced to the unlawful demands of the Department of Education to make radical and fulminant changes in school policy, or have restrictions on federal money.

If a school district gave into the demands of the federal government, usurping excessive power by controlling the purse strings on only 5 percent of its budget, what could this mean if the commonwealth likewise threatens similar policies that endanger the right to privacy, religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the majority of the school districts students’ and by extension their families?

Do we really want to sacrifice our school districts autonomy especially when the vast majority of the cost of this endeavor will be paid for by local residents?

Some of these potential school policy changes with governments intrusion in one area, that of open accommodation of showers, lockers, bathrooms, athletics and overnight school trips irrespective of the biological sex is still being played out in Fairfax County Schools.

Fairfax chose to bring on such policies to cater to the 0.05 percent of the student body struggling with gender identity, without any due process or parent input. This led to a firestorm of anger and legal strife.

The cost for the loss of our freedom and autonomy as a school district could be much more than the benefit of accepting outside money with all its strings.

Strings are needed for puppets, not educators.

Matthew Stachmus, Altoona

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