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Taxpayers would shoulder cost

February 11, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District can expect the state to kick in only between 10 percent and 15 percent of the cost of a new high school, which will leave taxpayers shouldering most of the burden, a school official said Monday.

Business Manager Rick Vensel told members of the Parent Advisory Council that if the school district follows the state construction planning process, called PLANCON, when it decides how to proceed with its secondary building program, it will receive only 10 percent to 15 percent in reimbursement of building costs.

Early figures estimated it would cost the district anywhere from $80 million to $100 million to either build one new high school to house all ninth- and 10th-graders or build a smaller high school and renovate the existing Chambersburg Area Senior High School to have two senior high school buildings.

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Vensel said until a final decision is made, he could not estimate how much the tax burden would increase for residents in the Chambersburg Area School District.

"Once we have a scenario, I'll be able to try and develop what the cost will be," he said.

The Board of School Directors is meeting Wednesday and is expected to vote on a possible building option.

Vensel outlined school funding for the Parent Advisory Council, a group that represents most of the Parent Teacher Organizations in the school district, to try and give them a handle on exactly how the district would fund a new building.

The school board began discussing its options to alleviate the crowding at the deteriorating high school more than two years ago.

So far, board members have held multiple public hearings and are now focusing on remaining a single high school system with separate buildings for grades nine and 10 and 11 and 12.

Vensel said in order to pay for a new building, the district would have to issue a general obligation bond that would be paid off over about 20 years.

The state reimbursement will be based on a complex formula that includes the district's capacity and enrollment figures for the next 10 years.

Council President Alan Kohler pointed out that a new high school would be expected to serve the district's enrollment for at least 50 years.

But Vensel said if the district builds beyond the 10-year enrollment projection, the state will not reimburse as much.

He said the district has $25 million in outstanding debt principal, which is only 20 percent of its legal borrowing capacity.

"It's up to the community what it can and will accept as a tax burden," Vensel said.

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