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Schenley High slated for new study to try to keep building

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

Despite being closed for five years and put up for sale, Schenley High School will undergo more studies to determine whether Pittsburgh Public Schools can afford to keep the historic building.

The school board voted 6-3 on Wednesday evening to obtain two new estimates for renovating the building.

“I'm dumbfounded why the school was ever closed,” said board member Regina Holley, who proposed the resolution. The resolution cited a petition signed by 1,000 advocates calling for a new look at the renovation costs.

The school board voted to close the Oakland school in 2008 when then-Superintendent Mark Roosevelt cited the danger posed by asbestos and the high cost of repairing its mechanical systems.

Advocates of the district keeping the building say estimates, which were as high as $75 million, were exaggerated.

The district last week received four bids to buy the building. A vote is slated for Feb. 27 on whether to accept one of the bids.

In other business:

• A painting by a French artist that is owned by the school district will be auctioned on May 8 at Sotheby's of New York, where it could fetch at least $500,000.

The board voted to sell the painting “Interior” by artist Henri le Sidaner, which was donated to the district in the 1930s by a nonprofit group called The Friends of Art to inspire students. The proceeds will help the district restore and secure its collection of more than 340 works of art.

• The board voted to lower the property tax rate from 13.92 mills to 9.65 mills, or 30 percent. Each mill raises $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. The impact of the lower rate on homeowners will depend on how much the countywide reassessment of property in the city affects them.

Generally, property values in the city rose 48 percent. If the value of a home exceeded that increase, the owner will pay more in taxes. If a property's value increased less than that amount, taxes will decrease.

Under state Act 1, the district cannot get a windfall as a result of property reassessment, however, it can raise its property tax revenues by 1.7 percent, or $3.2 million, to cover property tax appeals that homeowners might win.

• The board failed to approve an application to allow the Propel Hazelwood charter school to open in the former St. Stephen School, which would eventually serve 420 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Propel executive director Jeremy Resnick said he will appeal the decision to the state charter review board.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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