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West Jefferson Hills school board OKs $9.9 million in bonds

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 1:06 a.m.

West Jefferson Hills School District has taken one of its first tangible steps toward building its proposed $70 million high school.

Board members unanimously authorized the issuance of $9.9 million in general obligation bonds to investment bank Piper Jaffray at a rate of 4.32 percent over 30 years.

With help from bond counsel Wayne Gerhold and Public Financial Management Inc. director Jamie Doyle, the district conducted an online auction of the bonds from 11 to 11:15 a.m. Tuesday and presented the results during a board meeting later that evening.

Doyle said 27 bids came from five different underwriter syndicates with the lowest coming from Piper Jaffray.

“Going into the auction today, I was hoping to come in under 4.5 percent and you exceeded that,” Doyle said. “So I was very, very pleased with the results today.”

This bond issuance is to be the first of annual issues the district intends to take out through 2018 to help finance the construction of the new school. Doyle previously said the issues likely would range from $4.5 million to $22.5 million.

After the meeting, Superintendent Michael Panza likened the process to financing a car.

“Here's an analogy I gave the students,” he said. “You want to go buy a $30,000 car but you don't just pull $30,000 out of your pocket. Well, we want to go build a school and we're looking to spend about $70 million. We don't have that kind of money, so we're undertaking a process over the next five years to borrow money toward that project.”

Additionally, a plan presented to the board last spring and updated last month proposed that board members need to consider raising taxes to the state-allowed Act 1 index each year in order to pay for the school. Tax increases potentially could range from 0.39 to 0.53 of a mill during the upcoming years.

The new school, which is slated to open for the 2018-2019 school year, still is an abstract concept.

“This is just the beginning of the whole process,” Panza said. “We've been interviewing construction management firms and we need to hire an architect. But what happened today was a very important step.”

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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