Breathing a little easier in York County

York Dispatch editorial board

Thumbs up for some much-needed signs of improvement in York County’s air quality.

According to this year’s State of the Air Report, the county has made notable progress in reducing ozone air pollution in the past three years. In fact, a regional spokesperson for the American Lung Association, which produces the report, said York County experienced no days with elevated ozone levels from 2019-22, earning an “A” in that category.

That’s down significantly from a generation ago, when high smoggy ozone days regularly numbered well into the 30s each year and occasionally reached the mid-40s.

Ozone pollution, sometimes called smog, is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of heat and sunlight.

The news wasn’t all good, however. Particle pollution, which consists of tiny solid or liquid particles in the air, was up slightly from the previous report. The county’s “B” grade was the result of two days when there were elevated levels of the pollutants under the federal Air Quality Index.

So, there’s more work to be done to sustain and improve regional air quality. And that work will need to be cooperative, among individuals and local governments, clean-air advocate Zachary Barber of Penn Environment told the Dispatch. That means investments in cleaner and renewable energy sources for infrastructure and transportation.

That’s not an overnight solution but, given where the county’s air quality was 20 years ago, the county is headed in the right direction.

Thumbs down for the half-a-million-dollar oversight in the Red Lion Area School District.

The public learned last month that more than half of the $900,000 the district pays annually to educate students with behavioral issues at a separate facility has gone for naught. According to District Superintendent Robert Walker, the cost of the program at River Rock Academy is $30,000 per student and the district funded 30 students. Unfortunately, only 12 were enrolled in the program.

Clearly, someone’s been asleep at the switch — perhaps several switches; there’s no indication River Rock Academy officials flagged the overrun.

Red Lion officials deserve credit for coming clean about the snafu; if there was any temptation to resolve the issue behind the scenes, they laudably resisted it.

But the spending is, as board member Troy Engle characterized it, “a huge waste” — particularly since it is not known how many years the overpayments have been going on.

The district now has several issues to resolve: Realigning spending for the River Rock program, revisiting its contractual and payment methods to ascertain how such an oversight could have been made, and examining overall budgetary practices to ensure no similar misspending is occurring elsewhere.

As district budgeters prepare to ask property owners for a potential 4.5 percent tax increase, they must first assure them that not one penny of that money is going to waste.

Thumbs up for the Pennsylvania State Legislature’s all-but-unanimous vote to establish the South Asian holiday of Diwali as a state holiday in Pennsylvania.

Let’s face it, getting both sides of the aisle to overwhelmingly support any bill — whether in Harrisburg, Washington or elsewhere — is all but impossible these days. So, the fact that this measure passed unanimously in the state Senate and by a vote of 200-1 in the House demonstrates the strong and understandable support this bill enjoys.

The measure assures the state’s growing population of residents with Indian roots that they and their traditions are welcome — even if the recognition doesn’t require state offices, schools or businesses to close.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a holiday in the Hindu religion that celebrates the spiritual victory of good over evil.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Greg Rothman, whose district covers Perry and parts of Cumberland and Dauphin counties, said the impact of the holiday goes far beyond the communities who celebrate it.

“I hope it sends a message to the Asian community, but then (to) all immigrants that Pennsylvania is a welcoming place and we appreciate cultural diversity, and we appreciate you coming here,” he told WKBN.

All that’s needed now is Gov. Josh Shapiro’s signature.