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Price of Carreer and Technology Center shocks Franklin County school officials

February 24, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The price tag to renovate and expand the Franklin County Career and Technology Center into a comprehensive academic and vocational school for 1,000 or more students prompted sticker shock among some of the representatives of the six participating school districts.

For the Fannett-Metal School District, the smallest of the six, its proportional 2.46 percent share would be nearly $1 million on a $40 million project, with the Chambersburg Area School District's 44.42 percent share coming to $17.8 million.

"For us to do that, we're going to need a public referendum," Fannett-Metal Superintendent Dana Baker said at Thursday's meeting of the center's Joint Operating Committee. He said his district's proposed budget will have to be placed on the May primary ballot, having exceeded the allowable tax increase set by Pennsylvania's Act 1 school property tax relief law.

The Waynesboro Area School District would pay $6.7 million, with the Shippensburg Area School District paying $5.35 million. The Greencastle-Antrim School District would pay $5 million, and the Tuscarora School District would pay $4.1 million.

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Chambersburg hired a consultant to do a study of the center's programs, and had its architects do a feasibility study of the cost to turn it into a comprehensive school. The estimate by the architects was $47 million.

"Our belt's pretty tight now. We don't have any wiggle room," Waynesboro School Board member Stanley Barkdoll said. That district recently undertook a $46 million expansion of its high school.

Barkdoll said Waynesboro wants to keep its tax increases under the index that would trigger a referendum.

Joseph Padasak, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District, said his district could take over the center, but there will have to be some participation by the other schools.

"The mortgage, we can probably handle that ... Here's the issue - operating costs," Padasak said. The center costs about $5 million a year for the districts to run, a recurring cost Chambersburg cannot bear by itself if the other districts do not participate.

For the center to go from being owned and operated by the six districts to being owned and run by Chambersburg, each school board would have to approve an agreement voiding the existing articles of agreement, Chambersburg solicitor Jan Sulcove said.

"We're not interested in going it alone ... but there is wisdom in one school operating the facility," Chambersburg School Board member Stanley Helman said.

For Chambersburg to take over the center, the other districts would have to make a commitment to send students on a tuition basis, Waynesboro School Board member John Fitz said.

Helman asked the Joint Operating Committee members to take the numbers back to their school boards. Helman said Chambersburg would like to have a decision from the other districts by June, although a change in the articles of agreement not be ready to vote on until 2008 at the earliest.

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