Leechburg Area OKs $7.5 million in financing to upgrade schools
The plan to upgrade Leechburg Area School District facilities kicked into gear Wednesday, when the school board authorized a $7.5 million bond issue.
By an 8-0 vote with Jean Stull absent, the board gave RBC Capital Markets, the bond underwriter, the green light to prepare and market the bonds.
The bonds will finance renovations that school officials say are badly needed, including a new roof for the school campus — including the high school, middle school, David Leech Elementary School and the administration building, which all are connected.
In addition, the heating and air conditioning system, electrical system, wood shop, science and home economics labs will be renovated.
The board also approved an agreement with Axis Architecture PC that district Business Manager Brad Walker said allows Axis to starting seeking contract bids for the renovation work.
The new bonds will fold in existing debt from a previous bond issue that was set to expire in 2022.
But by refinancing at an interest rate projected Wednesday at 3.25 percent by Mike McCaig of RBC Capital Markets, the board will be able to keep the debt service level until the new issue ends in 2042.
Walker said the bond payments will be $500,000 a year.
Some residents have argued against renovating district buildings in favor of merging with neighboring districts because of costs.
Only two spoke Wednesday, including Bruce Altmeyer of Gilpin, who said he was tired of seeing his taxes raised every year.
Instead of improving buildings, he said the board should look at improving things such as the curriculum or look at merging.
Walker said that if the board did not undertake the renovations now they would have to be made at some point, at a likely higher cost.
Superintendent Tiffany Nix agreed that changes need to be made to improve the education program and that's already being done.
“We are about 75 percent of the way there,” she said.
“Are we done growing academically? Absolutely not,” Nix said. She invited Altmeyer to visit the schools.
“I applaud you for that,” Altmeyer said, “But do you think we could do it without raising my taxes every year?”
Nix replied: “We're sure going to try.”
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.