Our Opinion: Dalton takes lead on a new WRHS
No one likes a property tax hike, but it helps taxpayers absorb the hit more easily when they can see where their hard-earned money is going. Fortunately, should voters in the towns that comprise the Central Berkshire Regional School District approve such a hike, they can watch as a shiny new Wahconah Regional High School rises from the rubble of the old, providing an up-to-date educational facility for their children and those yet unborn.
On Monday, Dalton's Select Board took the courageous decision to support the construction of the new school on the same lot as the previous one. Dalton's buy-in was important, because as the largest municipality in the district, its taxpayers will be expected to foot roughly two-thirds of the $40-$45-million tab remaining once the state's school building commission kicks in its share of funding. This "sense of the town" will add heft to the CBRSD's expected decision to place the vote on an April 6 district-wide ballot.
The arguments in favor of building a new school facility are obvious: The current building, at 58 years old, is outdated and decrepit. Like the old Taconic in Pittsfield it wasn't built to last. Also, the nature of education has changed, and the growth of technology demands a state-of-the-art venue if the CBRSD's graduates are not going to be disadvantaged from the outset.
The large outlay for a district that serves approximately 1,600 students justifiably produces sticker shock. Nevertheless, to do nothing or settle for a questionably cheaper remodel would be to rob, in perpetuity, the district's children of their right to an adequate education. A new school should attract new families to towns that have suffered losses in population and need to build their tax bases.
It remains for the six other, smaller towns in the district to follow Dalton's lead and support the April 6 ballot question. There has never been a clearer case of personal sacrifice leading to the betterment of the community at large. Future generations will thank those who selflessly approved this worthy project.
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