The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 16, 2014

Living within its means | Windber rehab will take place piecemeal

JOHNSTOWN — When your home needs multiple costly renovations, what do you do?

If you’re like most of us, you try to save up, prioritize and take the projects on piecemeal. Maybe you redo the bathroom this year and the living room next year. A new roof? That could mean putting off that redesign and update of the kitchen you were hoping for.

But, when you have a budget that you have to stick to, those are the sacrifices that must be made. Without taking on crippling new expenses, it must be done slowly.

It’s just like the old saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

We’re happy to hear that Windber Area School District has decided to eat its big renovation plan one bite at a time. Superintendent Rick Huffman told our David Hurst that the district will look at its budget and decide which major projects the school can take on over the next eight or 10 years.

A Harrisburg group outlined millions of dollars worth of upgrades that the district should make at its elementary and junior/senior high schools and its football facility. Raising taxes, which is too often the solution for coming up with quick cash for projects, isn’t really an option for Windber.

“Our index allows us to raise taxes about a half-mill. That’s only $40,000,” Huffman said. “That’s not the kind of money that makes a difference.”

Instead, Windber will be limited to what it can redirect from its $1.1 million-per-year bond payments.

“Basically, that $1.1 million a year is what we can afford to spend,” Huffman said.

So, like so many of us and so little of our government, Windber Area School District will live within its means. It will budget, prioritize and do the most essential jobs first while putting off the least important projects for later on down the line. As long as it is not jeopardizing the health or welfare of its students – and we trust that the district will not allow that to happen – we think that’s a wonderful way of doing business.

Now, if Windber could just educate some of our elected officials on how all of this works.

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