Proposed West Jefferson Hills high school project would result in steady loans
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Incremental loans and staggered tax increases will be under consideration in the West Jefferson Hills School District for the next several years to help finance a proposed $70 million high school construction project.
The project has yet to be designed or granted final approval.
“We're trying to do all of this in a methodical, correct manner,” school-board President Anthony Angotti said.
Board members, in a unanimous vote last week, authorized administrators to work with a financial adviser and bond and legal counsels to issue $9.9 million in general-obligation bonds to fund a portion of the high school project.
This is a first step in a process in which district leaders plan to take out bonds annually through 2018 to help finance the construction of a new high school, said Tracy Harris, district director of finance. Bond issues likely would range from $4.5 million to $22.5 million, according to a plan presented to the board by Public Financial Management Inc. director Jamie Doyle.
Simultaneously, the plan that was given to school board members in April and updated in September proposes that board members approve annual tax increases to the state-allowed index under Act 1 and encourages leaders to apply for exceptions to raise taxes above the index. Tax increases likely would range from 0.39 to 0.53 of a mill during the next several years. That would bring the 18.104-mill tax rate to 20.954 mills in 2020.
Board members in June agreed to a 0.39-of-a-mill tax increase for the 2013-14 school year that brought the district's millage to 18.104. The rate had been reduced for that year from 21.08 because of the court-ordered countywide reassessments.
One mill in West Jefferson Hills brings in about $1.3 million.
School officials will review numbers each year to determine if a tax increase to help fund the high school project is an option, Harris said.
“We will look at that every year,” Harris said. “All of the options will need to be looked at every year.”
The plan would not require a referendum vote seeking residents approval to raise taxes above the state-issued index for West Jefferson Hills.
District officials have not made a decision if they will seek referendum approval to build a new high school to replace the deteriorating more than 50-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School on Old Clairton Road, Angotti said.
“Obviously, the goal is not to fund this project through referendum,” Angotti said, “not to say that that is off the table.”
Many unknowns remain for the project, district leaders agreed.
“We have no ideas as to what a facility will look like,” Angotti said. “As things progress, it all will become clearer.”
District officials at the end of May completed the purchase of 151 acres of vacant property on Old Clairton Road adjacent to the district's administration building, according to Allegheny County records.
That property was purchased for $1,075,000 through money from the district's general fund, Harris said.
“We bought the property for the purpose of building the building,” Harris said.
More testing, such as geo-technical surveying, still needs to be done on the land, Superintendent Michael Panza said.
Board members met Monday and Tuesday to interview three construction-management firms for the high school construction project.
Once a firm is selected, the next step is selecting an architect that will complete a design for the new high school, Panza said. Plans are for the new high school to be open in the 2018-19 school year.
A facilities master plan that was given to the board earlier this year but has yet to receive final approval outlines building-upgrade needs for all five district schools, and plans for the high school construction project are being updated, Angotti said.
Once approved, the facilities master plan will give a clearer picture on where the district is headed with the high school project, he said.
Financially, district leaders are working to ensure there is money not only for a high school construction project but also to make upgrades during the next 10 years in the four other schools and in the current high school building, until a new one would be ready for use, Angotti said.
Board members last week, in a unanimous vote, approved a motion “committing” $1.1 million in the general fund for construction or renovation of facilities.
As of June 2012, the district has $17.5 million in committed funds. The addition brought the committed funds to $18.6 million as of July, Harris said.
Committed funds include $10.1 million for future capital projects, $3 million for post retirements, $4.5 million for future retirements and $1 million for health insurance. The district also has $3 million in uncommitted funds.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Brentwood’s school resource officer a multitask facilitator
- Revised housing development plan submitted to Baldwin Borough officials
- Baldwin-Whitehall leaders support student-recognition project
- Baldwin Borough Community Day isn’t what it used to be
- Whitehall library discussion offers education to parents of autistic children
- Baldwin police seeking two men suspected in robbery
- New West Jefferson Hills facilities director in place
- Upgraded menu results in customer satisfaction at Jefferson Hills church’s fish fry
- Dodgeball tourney benefits Thomas Jefferson prom