Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Of Checkbooks and Stadiums

Consider this scenario: You have a fine back yard where your children like to play. It’s not the best yard in the world, but your kids perform well on it. You get the desire to improve your yard – to make it better and fancier

But along with the change comes a steep price. Like your neighbors, you make the median household income of $34,598. The upgrade to your back yard is a sizeable portion of your budget. You simply do not have the cash on hand to pursue this effort.

You have two choices: either abandon the upgrade until you can save enough money or cut out parts of your budget to make the upgrade fit. You decide neither option is acceptable, so you make a third choice. You rob your neighbors to pay for improvements to your property - and your neighbors can do nothing about it. Sadly, they are too apathetic to do anything about it.

Each year, the Grove City Area School Board shows that they cannot live within a budget. They want more money each year and raise your taxes to get it. They want to upgrade the back yard – the football and track complex – and they are making the third choice. And you are the neighbor.

Sadly, no one attends school board meetings. Perhaps it is out of fear or apathy. Perhaps the public has seen how dissidents are treated at the meetings. No one has made a full-on bid to replace the board members during recent elections. The public has accepted that each year, they have to cut back their budgets as the board confiscates more and more.

Your family has to live within a budget. You are not allowed to rob your neighbor. Sure, it would be nice to have a better, fancier back yard, but we clearly can’t afford it. And the school board needs to finally understand that. If they don’t, imagine the ramifications of tax increases to fund a complex that may cost as much as $5 million – if they manage to keep that within budget.

Ohio has it right. The school boards have to put forth a bond issue and the citizens vote on tax increases. If the issue is defeated, the board has to wait until they have the money or simply find another way.

Our board could take some cues from what other governing bodies do when money is tight. The obvious answer would be to say “no” – but that would be unpopular when the member is about the town. Conveniently, there are other ways to raise capital:

- Cut spending! The amount of waste in government spending is appalling. There are always places to cut, including large increases in salaries. The board raises taxes “for the children” then gives it to administrators, instead. If taxes must be raised, that means that we can’t afford it. Residents aren’t piggy banks. Our median salary is half (or even a third) of what the administrators make.

- Modest increase in ticket prices. If you enjoy the games, pay a little more to watch them. A quality team in a quality location calls for an appropriate price. Of course, the increase can’t be extreme because that would actually chase fans away.

- Fundraising. The marching band just sold tons of fruit to fund a trip to Florida. What can the football and track teams sell? How about the football and track boosters? I bet they could do a fabulous job raising funds for the new complex.

- Donations. A large portion of the downtown revitalization is being funded by private donations. People in western PA love high school football – I’m sure people would love to donate. Maybe a buy-a-brick type of promotion would work.

- Advertising. You see billboards around the baseball field fence, so find some prime spots at a new stadium.

- Pay-to-play athletics. Although this isn’t popular, it is one way to generate much-needed cash. Adults pay for activities all the time, so this is one of those great “character builders” you heard from your parents. Remember, it’s a privilege to play a sport – not a right.

- Sell naming rights. It works for every big-league sport, so why not in Grove City? I’m sure some companies would love to have the chance to advertise to thousands at each event. Perhaps USIS Field at General Electric Stadium? Don’t forget to name the track, too.

There you go – some revenue-generating ideas that fund a lovely back yard without robbing the neighbor.

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