Chartiers Valley leaders mull next steps after defeat of school security tax
Even though residents of the Chartiers Valley School District overwhelmingly voted down a ballot referendum in the May primary that would have raised property taxes to support security upgrades in schools, district officials said they are committed to ensuring that its students are safe.
“Providing a safe environment for our students and personnel has been and will remain a primary objective of the board and the administration,” said a statement posted on the district website. “We will continue to strive to provide security above and beyond what is expected by the community and what is provided by our peer districts. This includes, but is not limited to working with local law enforcement and listening to the concerns of the community regarding our safety plans.
“Together we can make Chartiers Valley safe and provide a positive learning environment for the education of our children.”
More than 66 percent of voters said no. Of the school district's 29 voting wards, 28 voted against the referendum. The one supporting area was Ward 8, District 2 in Scott Township, where the question won by three votes — 125-122.
Superintendent Johannah Vanatta said she wasn't completely surprised about the referendum's defeat. But she did not offer any specifics about what the district will do next.
“The next step is to continue to offer a safe and secure educational environment for our students, staff and community,” Vanatta said in an email.
In March, the Chartiers Valley school board approved placing a referendum on the ballot that would ask residents to raise the property tax 1 mill above already allowed increases under the state's Act 1, as well as permitted exceptions granted for the 2018-19 school year.
“As many recall, this past March, in response to the tragedy at Parkland, Florida, the district held a public safety meeting with the dual objective to both outline the district's security plan and to gather feedback from the community,” the statement said. “Out of this district and community dialogue, a list of suggested security enhancements above and beyond what the district already had in place was drafted. Some of these suggestions have already been implemented. However, many of the supplemental items would incur a significant ongoing cost with estimates in the range of $2 million.”
The 1-mill increase would have brought in an additional $2.3 million. That money would have gone toward additional security staff, counselors, psychologists, assistant principals and equipment. The district, which has approximately 3,300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, has three school resource officers to help with security matters.