Board settles on new school plan in Chambersburg

August 20, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board next week will look at a revamped proposal for a debt resolution on its building plan for secondary and elementary schools, one that could reduce the amount borrowed by $20 million to $30 million.

After a four-hour meeting Wednesday night, the board reached a consensus to discuss a debt resolution for a new high school costing approximately $76.8 million and two new elementary schools for about $11 million each, Business Manager Rick Vensel said. The debt resolution will exceed $100 million once inflation is factored in, he said.

"We will have bond council and local council and investment bankers come in on (Wednesday) Aug. 25, make a presentation to the board and give us the bond resolution," Vensel said. The board could vote to advertise the resolution for a final vote on Wednesday, Sept. 1, he said.


That would beat a Sept. 3 deadline imposed by Pennsylvania's school property tax reform law. Debt approved before then will not be subject to approval by referendum.

Some officials expressed concern over whether the district could borrow enough money to do everything called for in the plan the board adopted at its July 21 meeting, board member Thomas Orndorf said. Vensel told the board the district's borrowing limit is about $140 million.

Unlike the building plan the board approved on a 5-4 vote last month, the debt resolution proposal being prepared for board action has few specifics at this point.

The building plan called for the new ninth through 12th grade high school, converting the existing high school and Faust Junior High to middle schools and making Chambersburg Area Middle School an elementary school. The plan also included three new elementary schools, but a reduction in the total number from 17 to 12.

The architectural firm of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates of Mechanicsburg, Pa., put the cost of the work at $132.6 million, a figure based on current costs, Vensel said.

The board's decision Wednesday gives no direction on where to build two elementary schools, or which ones will be closed or renovated in the future, Vensel said. Nor does it address what will be done with the high, junior high and middle schools, but he expects some details to be filled in by next week.

"If you don't have a set plan in place, the resolution is meaningless," board member Craig Musser said Thursday. "We have to clarify all that by the end of next Wednesday night."

"The rest of the program will not disappear," Musser said.

"We're jumping ahead trying to beat the referendum and don't have a handle on what plan we really want to use," said Board President Stanley Helman. He said the public should have the opportunity to review any plan before the district approves a bond issue.

The consensus reached also included $3 million for renovations to the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, but Musser said that will be pulled from the resolution. The center is operated by the six districts in the county and its board can borrow money with the consent of the districts, he said.

The impact on real estate taxes will be similar to one of the scenarios outlined by Vensel during Wednesday's meeting. Vensel estimated that at approximately 1.76 mills in additional real estate taxes each year for eight years.

The reduced scope also could cut the time needed to complete the projects from the 2011-12 school year to 2008-09, according to Vensel.

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