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Closing Three Mile Island would hurt education, communities: Mary Carricato

Posted 1/24/18

Three Mile Island Generating Station will close in 2019 unless lawmakers in Harrisburg pass legislation that enables this crucial energy source to remain open. If TMI goes away, with it goes its tax …

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Closing Three Mile Island would hurt education, communities: Mary Carricato

staff photo by jason maddux
Posted

Three Mile Island Generating Station will close in 2019 unless lawmakers in Harrisburg pass legislation that enables this crucial energy source to remain open. If TMI goes away, with it goes its tax revenue — more than $1 million in state property taxes — that fund our schools and public services.

This matter is of particular concern to me, as our schools subsist wholly on tax dollars. The closure of TMI is going to have a ripple effect throughout the entire region, creating job losses and reducing tax revenues to school districts and municipalities across south-central Pennsylvania. The Steelton-Highspire School District already has one of the highest millage rates in the entire region, and we simply cannot afford another hit to our revenue.

Additionally, a meaningful amount of a school’s budget goes toward overhead costs such as electricity, so we are particularly susceptible to energy price fluctuations. It’s critical, therefore, that we maintain a diverse mix of fuel types — rather than putting all our eggs in one basket. If we depend too much on natural gas, for example, and then it skyrockets in price, we’ll simply have to foot an increased bill. And let’s remember that every dollar that goes to lighting and heating a school is one that isn’t spent directly on a child’s education.

Keeping TMI running isn’t just helpful for our educational system, it’s key for providing work force opportunities. What many don’t realize is that the jobs at TMI are highly skilled, high-paying technology jobs. Their influence is helping create a work force for tomorrow within our community — providing resources, support for STEM education and, eventually, career options to our district’s students. Bottom line, the people of TMI are invested in providing opportunities to those in our community — now, and well into the future.

To be sure, this is an issue that goes beyond dollars and cents. It weighs heavily on my mind that the parents of some of my students could lose their jobs and the community they call home could face an uncertain future.

Small towns across America are being crippled by the budget holes, depressed home values and tax increases that move into town when nuclear plants shut down and newly out-of-work residents are forced to leave, downsize or struggle to make ends meet. When Vermont Yankee’s single-unit nuclear reactor was shut down in 2014, the town’s budget had to be cut by 20 percent.

It’s easy to think of this as an energy policy issue in a vacuum — but this is about more than just how we get electricity. TMI’s closure would impact our local economy and our schools. Which is why I feel so strongly that, as a school board member, I must speak up.

TMI and the people who work there are good neighbors. It’s time for us to return the favor. That’s why I, along with other local leaders, have joined the Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania coalition. It is our hope that by encouraging our neighbors to learn more about this issue and by raising awareness of the detrimental impact that TMI’s closure would have on surrounding communities, we can make a difference.

I encourage you to show your support at www.cleanjobsforpennsylvania.com.

Mary Carricato is a board member of the Steelton-Highspire School District.