Friday, August 24, 2012

Basell Building Is Not a Wise Purchase

On Thursday, June 11 I attended the 7:30 am CCPS Meeting to request the purchase of the Basell Building for a new School of Technology. The presentation sounded very convincing and provided many reasons to support. However, there are two sides to every story and I would like to provide some of the reasons why I am not in support. Let’s be clear, this is not a comprehensive high school. Many agree that too much time is lost in a student’s day with the current format of reporting to two different schools in one day. A Comprehensive High School would include all of the classes. The number of students attending Cecil County Public Schools has decreased since 2006 and as a result, the State will not fund a Comprehensive Technical High School. Probably a good reason CCPS should not be expanding their school infrastructure at this time in this economy. With additional buildings comes additional operational costs per year (staff, maintenance, etc.) and that funding would be put to better use on CCPS current programs. The substantial increase in operational costs for a new building will likely mean an increase in taxes and at this time the Board of County Commissioners has agreed to not raise taxes. When the school populations increase and the State funding kicks in for the new Comprehensive High School, the current site location adjacent to Cecil College would make more sense in partnership opportunities with the college. It should be mentioned, we have already invested on engineering plans for this location. If we purchased the Basell Building, the Comprehensive High School will be scrapped and CCPS will be committed to the current format of a technical school instead of a comprehensive high school. Why haven’t we explored other less costly options for expanding the School of Technology? Individual technical programs could be located in schools that are below capacity. I see that CCPS currently rents space on Bridge Street? Why isn’t that an option for individual technical programs? Has CCPS fully explored opportunities with the private sector to contract out some of their programs? Treasurer Feehley had explored initial cost options for Cosmetology Programs: Private sector charges $5,500 per student and it’s $12,000 per student cost with CCPS. The other reasons which ultimately led to my vote: (1) The Basell Property is prime real estate attractive to research and development companies, (2) We would lose the property tax revenue which is currently over $65,000 and with 90 acres at the site there is a much higher potential for the future, (3) Renovation costs which CCPS projected seem to be unrealistic. CCPS did not include the replacement of the HVAC System and initially the school said the $44 per square foot renovation cost was low because they were only renovating what they would be using (1/3 of building to start). I agree that quality of education greatly affects economic development which CCPS used to justify taking the Basell Building offline. But once you are presented with all of the facts, I believe this proposal is not a wise investment for CCPS or economic development.