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Penn-Trafford weighs funding options

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By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Penn-Trafford School District officials are considering four options to finance a proposed high school renovation project, expected to cost $32 million.

Board members plan to debate and choose an option in November. That decision could impact the scope of the project.

Two financial consultants updated school directors about the state of the volatile bond market and its effect on the district, providing four choices:

• In one scenario, Penn-Trafford would finance the project at $32 million over an extended time period of 16 12 years with no tax hike, Superintendent Matt Harris said.

• In another, the $32 million cost would be spread over 12 years with a tax increase of 1 mill per year for two years.

“They would have to raise millage one year at a time for two consecutive years, so it would be 2 mills total,” Harris said.

• In the third scenario, directors would borrow $26 million over 12 years with no tax increase, lessening the project's scope.

“It would result in looking at the project again to see what needs eliminated,” Harris said.

• Finally, the district could borrow $10 million per calendar year. That scenario would fund smaller projects with no tax increase and could entice banks to buy the debt.

“Whatever borrowing you do, we're going to want to know that you're comfortable moving forward,” said Christopher Brewer a partner with Dinsmore & Shohl's Public Finance Practice Group.

This summer, school directors decided on the $32 million budget for renovations at the high school campus. But the bond markets have been volatile since officials last discussed the rates, Harris said.

Renovations at the 41-year-old high school are expected to include updated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, additional science labs and auditorium upgrades. Plans call for the addition of 66 parking spaces and improved cafeteria and kitchen equipment.

“We did tell the public no tax increase,” board member Nick Petrucci said. “When we think about the four options, we did tell the public no tax increase.”

In other business

• Board members approved a contract for the district's paraprofessionals, maintenance workers, custodians and secretaries.

The three-year contract includes a raise of 1.4 percent the first and third years, with no pay increase the second year, business manager Brett Lago said.

The agreement also ensures the district will not outsource the jobs for the term of the contract.

• A student branch of the Westmoreland Community Federal Credit Union will debut this month at the high school.

Students can open savings and checking accounts, make withdrawals and deposits, and apply for a credit card and loans.

“The whole purpose of this is to teach students how to manage their finances,” student teller Matt Senkow said.

The teller station in the cafeteria will be open Wednesdays and Fridays.

Several school board members praised the program.

“I think it's a great idea,” Petrucci said. “The kids get used to growing money and saving money.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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