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School Board OKs $40 million borrowing plan

August 18, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - With seven of nine members voting in favor, the Waynesboro Area School Board Tuesday put the district in a position to borrow up to $40 million to repair its school buildings.

The vote does not commit the board to spending the money.

The motion was made by Stan Barkdoll and seconded by Anna K. Bostwick-Foley. Members Todd Rock and Leland Lemley voted against the motion.

By acting before a Sept. 3 deadline imposed by Act 72 of 2004, a new state law, the board avoided a voter referendum after next year, as called for in the act.

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The $40 million would be repaid at $10 million a year between 2005 and 2008. It would be financed by a tax hike of 12.64 mills spread over the four years.

One mill represents $1 of every $1,000 of assessed property value. Each mill brings in about $195,000, said Schools Superintendent Barry Dallara.

The board could soften the blow to taxpayers by using three mills being held in reserve for capital projects. That would cut the 12.64 mills to 9.64 over the four-year period, Gregg McLanahan, the board's financial consultant said.

Last week, following a report on an architectural study of the district's building renovation needs, the board considered spending the lion's share on Waynesboro Area Senior High School plus repairs to the middle school and Summitview Elementary School.

Rock took the first swipe at the issue, saying the district is already in debt and that adding more would put it in such dire straits that school personnel could face layoffs in two to three years.

He said the district might have to raise taxes by four to five mills a year over the next few years just to stay afloat.

"The real issue here is that you want to do this by Sept. 3 to avoid a referendum," Lemley said.

School boards across the state recognize the problems with referendums, McLanahan said.

Lemley said Pennsylvania is the only state that allows school boards to issue bonds and incur debt.

"They've never had to deal with referendums," he said. "There's a rash of school boards around the state that are doing what we're doing here tonight."

A motion by School Board Member Chris M. Devers to call the question and end debate drew fire from Lemley.

"I don't care if you call the question on me. I'll break this freaking meeting up. If you try this," he told his board colleagues, "you're as crazy as you look. I'll filibuster to stop you."

He said renovating buildings helps adult egos but does nothing to help the academic programs of students. "In two years, you won't be in a position to do anything for the students," he said.

Some members looked down in silence while Lemley ranted, others doodled. Rock looked intently at Lemley as he spoke.

Board President Larry Glenn faced Lemley and tried a couple of times to explain that the board had been talking about the need for building renovations for the past two years.

Lemley said older district residents on Social Security face losing their homes if the board raises their school taxes.

"Who's going to buy them the Alpo (dog food) so they can eat?" he said.

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