Rockland's Leverage: The Power Plant
The Derrick, 3/15/02 By SHEILA BOUGHNER-BLAIR

Special thanks to The Derrick for permitting this story to be posted


While Rockland residents are reportedly eyeing a withdrawal from the Cranberry School District similar to that under consideration in Pinegrove, Rockland appears to have another power play up its sleeve as well: the Handsome Lake Energy power plant and its potential tax revenues.

As school directors attempt to decide what to do with the district's elementary buildings, the outlying communities appear to be scrambling for ways to save their schools from possible consolidation.

At the request of constituents, Pinegrove Township Supervisor Gene Miller is researching the possibility of the Pinegrove school seceding from Cranberry School District and joining a neighboring district. He said he has heard some Rockland residents are considering a similar move and a new alliance with Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District.

But while Rockland Township supervisor John Propst said he has heard no such talk, he pointed to the power plant instead.

"We just had a (township) meeting here and nobody's said anything about that (secession)," Propst said. "But right now, I think they'd be foolish to shut the school down. . . . This school's an asset to the community and we would like to keep it down here. With the new (power) plant, that's a big chunk of change to keep the school district running."

Under the reassessment, the natural gas-fired electricity generating plant near Kennerdell, hotly opposed by the Save Our Sanctuary citizens group and Rockland Township supervisors prior to its construction in 2001, was assessed at $28 million.

Plant officials have appealed that figure, and the final numbers will not be available until an appeal hearing, which will probably be held in October, according to Pat Bajorek, director of the Venango County Tax Claim Bureau. But whatever the final figure, the tax revenue produced by the plant will likely be enormous by local standards.

On the assessed value of $28,086,970, school district taxes would be $348,278.42, Bajorek said.

County taxes would be $143,805.28 and township taxes would be $29,013.84.

For the sake of comparison, Wal-Mart, assessed at $9,394,210, generates $116,488.20 in school taxes, $48,098.35 in county taxes, $16,158.04 in taxes to the township, according to the tax claim bureau.

While school district taxes all go into a common pot to fund the entire district, some Rockland residents feel they have some added leverage in district debates as a result of the township's now hefty tax base.