ASD wants feedback on Act 72; plans informational meeting
FORD CITY — The Armstrong School Board is looking for a little direction from the public about whether or not to take gambling money for property tax relief, but haven't received much feedback so far on the issue.
Director James Solak requested that the board hold a public forum on the issue to give the district's citizens information, and perhaps get some feedback as well. He also asked that area state lawmakers be invited to help explain the law.
“I felt, ‘Who better to hear from than the people who voted for it and who voted against it?' “ Solak said, adding that he is hoping lawmakers can explain the reasoning behind their votes.
“I want them to explain why they voted that way to help me vote,” he said.
Board President Terry Rupp suggested that both entry and exit polls of the citizens be done to see what public sentiment is, adding that he felt the voters' opinions were more important than any information a state lawmaker could give.
“Their positions on this have been cast,” Rupp said of the lawmakers. He said he would rather the meeting focus on giving out information to the voters.
“Our constituents need to know as much detail as we can provide them as to what the ramifications of opting in or out is,” Rupp said.
The state has imposed a May 30 deadline for school districts to decide whether they want to receive money from potential gambling revenues.
Directors Joseph Close and Tim Ashe said they hope the meeting can clear up some of the misconceptions about the law and explain some of the strings attached to it.
“There's so many unknowns,” Ashe said. “There's a lot of misunderstanding with this.”
Close characterized the gambling law as “smoke and mirrors” which was intentionally made hard to understand.
Ashe said residents had approached him with the expectation that property tax relief would be immediate — an assumption that is false — but said he can't give them an exact answer because the state has only said that relief would most likely happen no sooner than 2007.
Director Rose Stitt said she wants the meeting to involve as many parties as possible that can provide pertinent information.
“I would like to get as much information as I can,” she said. “This is too big of an issue. I want to make sure I'm making an informed vote.”
A date for the meeting has not been announced, but the board was looking to schedule it on a Thursday night, on either March 31, April 7, April 14 or April 28. A venue was not decided on last night.
Rupp said that once the meeting date and time are announced, he hopes it is well-attended and that people freely give their opinions, though he added that the board has the final responsibility.
“Let's hope they show up in droves,” he said. “In the big scheme of things, this is our decision.”