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Financial report key to project in West Jefferson Hills district

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 11:33 a.m.

A review of West Jefferson Hills School District's finances will help board members determine how to proceed with a high school modernization project.

A report from financial consultant Patrick Sable, hired last month to review funding options for district construction projects, should be complete by early April, board members said Tuesday.

The report will determine if the district can build a new high school by restructuring its finances or if it will be required to seek voters' permission, through referendum, to raise taxes above the Pennsylvania Department of Education-issued index, board President Anthony Angotti said.

“That report is critical,” Angotti said. “Let's face it, no matter what option we choose, it's going to cost money. We're trying to look at all of the alternatives and all of the options that we could be faced with.”

School board members and district administrators, architects and engineers spent the last several weeks ranking a list of options for the construction of a new high school and ways to address potential growth in the elementary schools, said district architect Ryan Pierce, president of JC Pierce LLC. This was done as part of the district's facilities master plan — or blueprint for the future — that is under way.

Each option was evaluated as to how well it met the eight strategic goals for the district that were assembled from public input.

An option to construct a high school on a newly acquired 151-acre lot on Old Clairton Road for $74.6 million received the highest ranking, with nearly double the score of any other option from district officials and representatives from JC Pierce.

“This one was a blowout,” Pierce said. “Consistently across the board, this option seems to meet the strategic goals.”

Construction of a high school on this site would take 24 months and would not cause disruptions to classroom learning at the current high school.

District officials plan to close on the $1,075,000 property purchase on Thursday, Angotti said.

An option to completely overhaul the current high school for $63.6 million is “not considered viable,” Pierce said. The project would disrupt learning, as students would be in trailers for nearly four years, he said.

Another option to construct a new school on the high school site is not “a good value for your money,” costing as much as $77.5 million.

All of the costs assume the district will not receive any reimbursements from the state for construction, as the PlanCon project is in moratorium, officials said.

While all district schools are within capacity, officials also ranked options for how to handle potential future growth.

Board members could vote to finalize the ranking as early as next week, Pierce said. The facilities master plan will be available for adoption in April.

For more on the rankings, visit

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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