This was one of the challenges that I wanted to deal with, head on, and why I wanted to be elected to city council. These schools are a big issue for our city and very, very important to the overall health of the city and the city's long-term survival.
First thing: South Vo Tech's High School Building should NOT be sold. No way. The School Board should keep that building within its holdings for now.
Do NOT SELL SOUTH Vo TECH. And, I mean the HIGH SCHOOL. The Vo Tech part isn't up for sale. But, they have split the campus and the old school building is up for sale now and the sealed bids are to be opened on March 31.
If a school building sells to a charter schools, then that building is NOT taken off of the tax rolls. That is NOT the issue. The correct way to understand this: what is off the tax rolls can't be taken off the tax rolls. Schools are not taxed now.
The entire conversation is all mixed up with the P-G and the city's understanding. Bob O'Connor wants to take property off of the tax rolls in downtown. The URA wants to take property off of the tax rolls on Second Avenue at the Pittsburgh Technology Center, an modern office park. These are the most valuable bits of property in the region. And our elected and appointed leaders (URA BOARD) is hell-bent on giving subsidy (tax breaks) to businesses in valued areas. THAT is what is called talking property off the tax rolls.
Try this: Tax commercial properties and allow schools and nonprofits to be without taxes. DUHH.
Meanwhile, the school district is now charged with putting property back ONTO the tax rolls.
Schools shouldn't be taxed. Schools serve an important community function. Schools should be public spaces and businesses should be private spaces. You tax business and commercial spaces to pay for the public spaces.
When the URA and Mayor give tax breaks for the businesses and commercial spaces -- and at the same time take away from the kids, the schools, the education of our community -- they are SCREWED UP and they are KILLING this city.
And, I'm a big, big, big advocate of the FREE MARKET. I'm a LIBERTARIAN BOARD MEMBER.
Granted, some of the excess capacity within the schools needs to be adjusted. Some of the school buildings need to be sold. Some of the buildings need to put on the market -- right away -- as many of our neighborhoods are about to crumble and an empty school building that goes dark could be a devistation.
The Schools have a mission to educate our kids. Let's not forget that -- above all else. And, this mission is serious work and it needs to be respected. For example, I don't want the schools to be paying for the crossing guards as that is an out-of-building duty of neighborhood public safety that the city should provide. I want the schools to be teaching algebra and reading and other academic things.
Likewise, I don't want to see a big burden and duty heaped upon the schools so as to make them real estate agents. That's wrong. Richard R. Fellers, chief operations officer for Pgh Public Schools, and the school board members, should devote 99.9% of their time and energy into efforts that help the kids with scholarship. Mr. Fellers has to figure out how to staff the schools, get the kids books, keep on the lights, pay for heaters and food and school buses.
The school district should not be a re-development authority!
The school district is going to fail me in efforts to be a judge and jury on neighborhood considerations for the best use for extra property.
It is wrongheaded for the district to sell buildings as quickly as possible to buyers who will return them to the tax rolls -- willy nilly. It is wrong for this worry to be on the plate of the school district.
The district's approach already has drawn criticism. City Councilman William Peduto, claiming the district has mishandled the proposed sale of the former Regent Square Elementary School, is demanding the district use a better process for selling other buildings.
Sounds like Bill Peduto is pointing fingers at the district for not doing its job when, really, the blame should rest at the feet of city council. Peduto and Council have been masters at giving tax breaks to the wrong people.
How about if the city buys all the empty buildings from the school district. But, the city already owns nearly 20,000 bits of property throughout the city. The URA has been on hyperdrive. The city even purchased commercial property downtown just months ago. The city has been buying the wrong buildings in the wrong places for the wrong reasons to pay the wrong people.
The board will hold a special hearing at 7 tonight to take public comment on the fate of the 33,488-square-foot Regent Square building, closed in 2004. That building highlights the district's difficulties.
My $.02 is to sell the building for $3-M, as offered, and don't worry about the tax situations. If the school board really wanted to worry about the tax situations it would NOT have given approval for the $18-million tax break to PNC Bank for PNC Plaza downtown. PNC already had a $50-million grant from the taxpayers as a gift from Fast Eddie Rendell.
The board scheduled tonight's hearing because it wanted to hear the public's thoughts about the sale. But Mr. Peduto said that's too little, too late.I don't want to swear at Bill on my blog -- but cuss words are flowing out of my mouth and my fingers are typing other statements, blah, blah, blah. Too little too late is the definition of city council and how it treats all things about kids.
School officials should NOT be worried about how reused schools should breathe new life into neighborhoods -- because it was city council who sucked the life out of the neighborhoods. Hows that for blinders, Peduto?
"They're looking with blinders on," he said, claiming school officials don't see how reused schools could breathe life into neighborhoods.
Instead of gathering input at the 11th hour, he said, the district should have sought public comment at the beginning of the sale process and sought a buyer willing to conform to community development plans.I've been standing on my head for nearly a decade saying 'end tax breaks' (no TIFs) to corporations and developers. The 11th hour for city council was in 2004 or some time long ago past. Peduto is the guy that wants to subsidize Giant Eagle in Shadyside. That's bunk. And Peduto is the guy that wants to have the school worry about design standards of the neighborhood -- more bunk.
Here is a design standard for the school -- it is a school. Enough said. Keep it a school. Make it a charter school. Give the charter school operators nonprofit status. Keep more kids and families in the district -- rather than have them move to Scott, Peters, North Allegheny, and elsewhere in Steeler Nation (except the city, of course).
As to A+ Schools, and its effort as a Downtown education group with hooks to architects and developers to tour closed buildings and analyze potential uses, PUNT. A+ Schools should be at neighborhood meetings that gather public comment on best uses for the buildings -- but A+ Schools can't be the driving group to organize those meetings. A+ Schools needs to divest itself from the school building discussion. That needs to spin out of that organizaiton.
I want A+ Schools to worry about the kids grades in the PPS schools -- and frankly, the use of land, development, tax breaks and potential uses is a great example of taking the eye off the ball.
A+ Schools lost all its respect from me when its boss kissed butt to Mark Roosevelt's Right Sizing Plan without getting the community's input. A+ Schools had a board that wasn't even consulted before it started its propaganda machine to steamroller an agenda from a hired Roosevelt. A+ Schools is a teethless tool of the foundation community.
Does Peuto hint at a threat with this statement? Mr. Peduto said the district has little choice but to accept neighborhood advice. He noted the district cannot sell buildings without the help of city agencies that grant zoning changes and offer financial incentives to developers. WRONG!
The School District can sell the building to a charter school operator and there may not be any reason to get any city approval -- to keep the building as a school. Bill -- lots of people don't care to dig into the pockets of the taxpayers and have you agree to this robbery.
kdka.com - District Facing Criticism For School Sale PlanThe Pittsburgh Public Schools District is now facing criticism for a plan sell 27 school buildings, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
The district is trying to find the right buyer. One of the biggest problems is whether or not to sell these buildings to potential charter schools. That move would take them off of the city's tax rolls and hurt their budget.