At a time so many school districts are finding it difficult just to meet their needs, here are a few examples of how "wants" should be handled.
When the Central York Panthers kick off their first home football game Aug. 29, the score will be displayed on a new, state-of-the-art video scoreboard. Although pricey — around $200,000 — the "behemoth" of a device isn't costing taxpayers a dime.
The Panther Foundation, a district-affiliated nonprofit, is picking up the tab for the scoreboard and its installation.
In addition to tracking the action, the board displays static advertisements and video ads during games and other stadium events. Six advertisers already have snapped up the 22 advertising spots on the board, said Dave Trimbur, the foundation's executive director.
Sponsors have signed contracts with the foundation to pay between $1,500 and $5,000 per year for the next five years for advertising placement on the boards.
After the scoreboard is paid off, the district and the foundation will split the proceeds. But the 11-year-old foundation's share will end up going to Central anyway, since its mission is "finding new and unique means of raising revenue for programs and projects outside the current financial budget" for the school district.
With state education funding tight and taxpayer anger near fever pitch, such a partnership is about the only way a district can hope to pay for very nice but completely unnecessary extras.
After kicking around the idea of $1 million artificial turf athletic field for a while, the Dallastown Area school board decided in 2012 there was only one way it would OK the project: if property owners didn't have to pick up the tab.
Board members gave their blessing to the Dallastown Area Education Foundation, a nonprofit community fundraising group for the district, to solicit donations for the project. The foundation had already helped raise about $140,000 by then, and it was hoped the "official" endorsement would assure potential donors the district was serious about getting a turf field.
"The momentum is going. We're going to be a district that puts a turf field together at no taxpayer expense, and wouldn't that be nice," then-board member Lauren Rock said. "That's the passion of the foundation. They are very focused."
But were they focused enough, and was community as committed — enough so to contribute a million dollars?
We weren't so sure, and questioned when the school board pledged to front half the project's costs once the foundation raised $500,000 from other sources.
The only way to be certain taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for a field they didn't need was to wait until all of the money was raised.
Our fears were allayed somewhat last year.
When bids came in higher than expected and the foundation had raised only about $300,000, the board scrapped the project's November 2013 start date.
It seemed the district was serious about protecting property owners.
The board did not give final approval for the project until April, when the foundation reported it had raised $500,000. When ground was broken this summer, the fundraiser had collected $629,339 for the $864,201 field, which is now ready for the fall sports season. The foundation continued to collect money, and its next big fundraiser will be a tailgate kickoff event at the football team's Aug. 29 home opener.
Given the foundation's success to date, the district might own the field free and clear by then.
And that's how the game should be played.