Area voters yesterday rejected a tax raise that would have funded measures intended to bolster security at Chartiers Valley School District.
More than 66 percent of voters said no to Chartiers Valley Act 1, which read:
Do you favor the Charters 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).
Approximately 4,930 votes were cast in response to the question, according to Allegheny County election data. At the neighborhood level, 28 of the 29 voting precincts in the Chartiers Valley area voted against the measure. The exception was Scott Township’s Ward Ward 8, District 2—located behind St. Clair Hospital—where the ballot question was approved 125-122.
The idea to let voters decide whether to fund additional school security measures was introduced this spring, following the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida that left 17 students dead.
Shortly afterward, some Chartiers Valley parents expressed concerns about the security throughout the district. A subsquent meeting among school officials, parents, and public safety officers resulted in a list of initiatives aimed at preventing school violence and minimizing the effects if an event should occur.
Those security measures have a price tag, though—more than $2 million per year, by some estimates.
The district is already facing a $3 million budget shortfall next fiscal year, and school officials have been considering a tax increase of up to .467 mills—the maximum allowed by state law— to help balance the books.
Generating an additional $2 million per year for security would require a 1 mill tax hike—and voter approval.
Although, Chartiers Valley already has one of the lowest school tax rates in Allegheny County, asking residents to vote “yes” on raising their own taxes was a tough sell.
Online, some social media users flat-out rejected the idea of paying any more taxes for anything, ever. Other commenters were open to the concept of a dedicated tax for student safety, but concerned that the district hadn’t publicly laid out a more specific plan for how that money would be invested.
In addition to its unarmed security staff, Chartiers Valley currently employs three armed school resource officers—sworn police officers who are permanently assigned to patrol the district’s buildings.