Voters to decide if James Buchanan High to be renovated, expanded

May 29, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, PA. -- Voters in the Tuscarora School District will be asked in a special election this September whether they support spending $35 million to renovate and expand James Buchanan High School.

The project would raise their property taxes about 15 mills, or $283 for the average homeowner for each of the next 20 years. "Average" assumes a home assessed at $18,200 with a market value of $186,000.

With about 10,300 voters registered in the district, the school board is counting on a majority vote to send the project forward for construction starting in the summer of 2009.

"We have to keep it within budget. Once the public votes on Sept. 9, that sets a cap for the amount," Business Manager Rick Kerr said.


Although the Public Debt Act prohibits the school board and administration from acting as cheerleaders for construction, Kerr said a parents organization is forming to "sell" the project to voters.

Architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates has not created details for the renovation, but officials believe that with $35 million they can replace the air circulation systems, replace the roof, update the electrical system, add nine classrooms, resolve water issues, install a security system, increase the auditorium capacity and move the central office to the high school. The project also tentatively includes adding a rubberized track and renovating the existing swimming pool.

"The architects have not done any design work," Kerr said. "This is just conceptual."

The architects will design the project further now that the board has chosen a planned project cost.

The scope of the project will depend on the prices associated with bids received from contractors, according to Kerr.

Wording of the decision before voters will be:

"Shall debt in the sum of $35,000,000 for the purpose of financing the construction of additions and improvements to the James Buchanan High School be authorized to be incurred as debt approved by the electors?"

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