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Anticipating construction, Penn-Trafford officials OK $9.5M bond

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By Chris Foreman
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
 

The Penn-Trafford School Board this week unanimously authorized the borrowing of $9.5 million toward what could become an estimated $30-million renovation of the high school.

At Monday's school board meeting, district officials said they swanted to take advantage of historically low interest rates in preparation for the potential project, but the rates for the general-obligation bonds won't be finalized for at least another week.

The last major renovation at the 40-year-old high school was in 1996. Superintendent Thomas Butler said a renovation likely would upgrade the school's heating and cooling systems and plumbing and electrical infrastructure.

Other possible improvements could benefit the district's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, with upgrades such as new science labs, he said.

“All that stuff is going to be on the table, but we have to take care of the nuts and bolts first,” Butler said.

The district is considering hiring a project manager to help as officials start the design phase in the spring, Butler said.

Depending on the state of the bond market, district officials also might pursue another $10 million or $20 million for the project in the spring, he said.

Butler said it's possible there might be a renovation plan in place by the summer so community members can give comments. He estimated the project design might be completed by fall 2013.

Last week, he gave a tentative timeline that included planning for a second building project that could begin in the summer of 2014. The second project could result in other Penn-Trafford schools being renovated or consolidated.

No option — including school consolidation or closure, grade-level reconfiguration or construction of a new school — has been discussed extensively or ruled out by officials.

The district already submitted a placeholder to the state Department of Education for possible reimbursement for a project, but statewide funding has been frozen. State officials put a moratorium on new applications for the reimbursement program, known as PlanCon, after Oct. 1

“We're going to move forward as if PlanCon is going to be funded,” Butler said. “We don't know either way.”

Officials already have set aside some other funding for a project.

In the 2012-13 budget, the school board pledged to dedicate 1 mill's worth of revenue from a 1.6-mill property-tax rate increase toward potential building renovations or new construction. One mill generates about $270,000 in revenue for the district.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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