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Greencastle-Antrim campus expansion cost could top $54M

School Board presented with three-phase concept plan Thursday

School Board presented with three-phase concept plan Thursday

December 04, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Expanding the Greencastle-Antrim School District campus to accommodate increased enrollment could cost taxpayers as much as $54.1 million or 18 additional mills of taxes, the school district's business manager said.

With enrollment expected to top 4,000 by 2020, Superintendent Greg Hoover said each school needs modification and additional square footage.

The Facilities Development Committee of the Greencastle-Antrim School Board, together with EI Associates of Harrisburg, Pa., presented the board with a three-phase concept plan Thursday.

The plan is designed to handle current growth trends, modern building codes and potential growth explosion.

At the heart of the plan is expanding classroom space, said Board President Arnie Jansen, who sits on the committee.

The plan detailed renovations to each of the district's four buildings, plus new construction. It included adding 47 classrooms, joining the high school and middle school with a shared dining hall, moving district offices to the new joined high school and middle school, adding a kindergarten/pre-K center and constructing a new fieldhouse.

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Now is the time to do this, Hoover said.

"It's going to cost us, though," he said. "But we are growing and we need to do something."

Hoover estimated a 33 percent increase in enrollment from 3,000 students in 2009 to 4,030 students by 2020.

With most buildings eligible for Pennsylvania Department of Education reimbursement, a perk that only cycles around every 20 years, at a time when construction costs are rock bottom, renovating now versus later should save money, he said.

Between 20 and 30 percent of the total project cost would be eligible for state reimbursement, said Architect Mark Barnhardt, Senior Vice President of EI Associates.

District Business Manager Richard Lipella said the district has averaged about 28 percent reimbursement for past projects.

While the state would only repay a fraction of the total cost, Barnhardt said the steep price estimate included everything on the district's wish list.

EI Associates also estimated high when it projected the renovation to cost $54.1 million, Barnhardt said.

Not planning to put the project out to bid until 2011, Barnhardt said his firm intentionally did not take into account the present bidding climate, which has many bids coming in well below estimates.

Assuming a 20-year amortization, Barnhardt said the district could face a $3.2 million annual payment for 20 years to pay off the estimated debt service.

With each mill valued at about $187,000, Lipella said a $3.2 million annual payment could mean raising taxes by as much as 18 mills.

However, payments typically fluctuate, depending on the bond, he said.

No decision was made by the board regarding the project, Hoover said.

The board will hear from its financial consultant on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. to discuss financing options.

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