Armed guards. Metal detectors. Physical barriers. Mental health services. Conflict resolution training.
There are many theories about how to protect students from school shootings and other on-campus violence. But making those ideas a reality costs money.
On May 15, voters in Bridgeville, Collier, Scott, and Heidelberg will decide whether they are willing to pay higher property taxes to fund additional safety measures at Chartiers Valley school buildings.
The ballot question reads:
Do you favor the Chartiers Valley School District increasing its real estate property tax by an additional 1.0 mill above its Act 1 Index and permitted exceptions? The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be dedicated to the implementation of measures to increase school safety through enhancements to operations and infrastructure including additional security staff, counselors, psychologists, assistant principals and equipment (including additional security cameras, metal detectors, building door access and electronic gates).
For a resident, a 1 mill tax increase translates into an additional $100 of property taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value.
For the school district, the tax hike would generate $2.3 million per year for school safety, according to the Tribune Review.
But the broad array of initiatives mentioned on the ballot raises questions about how the exactly money would be allocated or prioritized.
- Would initial spending focus on one-time costs like metal detectors and cameras rather than year-to-year expenses like security personnel?
- Would new hiring be focused on security staff or mental health professionals?
- Would new security staff be armed or unarmed?
School officials are working on a list of answers to common questions about the referendum. That document will be posted to Chartiers Valley’s web site in the next week or so.
At a board meeting earlier this month, assistant superintendent Scott Seltzer said that the revenue would not be solely directed toward equipment such as metal detectors and physical security measures, but would also include personnel who would assist students with dealing with stress and enhance conflict resolution development.
“More principals, counselors, and psychologists will help our kids become better people, not just better students,” he said. “It would provide an enhanced support structure to help them to deal with any emotional issues they may be experiencing and to assist them with conflict resolution.”
In February, a group of school officials, public safety officials, and parents created a list of practical school safety measures, some of which are specifically mentioned on the May 15 ballot question.
Implementing those ideas would cost upwards of $2 million by some estimates, with 30% to 40% going to toward physical and technological investments, and the rest going to new staff salaries.
The referendum came as a request from concerned parents, said school board president Tony Mazzarini.
“This referendum will allow [the community] to make the decision on a tax increase to specifically address an increase in campus and student safety. There is a benefit to letting the community decide whether they want this or not.”
Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0