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Plum high school project will cost district more than it thought

| Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Plum School District will not be getting any money back from a $10 million bond issue in 2003 because the district had reached its reimbursement limit before the bond was issued, the state Department of Education said Thursday.

Interim Business Manager Sheldon Berk said the $10 million bond issue that was taken out to wrap up the $57 million remodeling and expansion project at Plum Senior High School will cost the district the amount of the bond issue, plus $6.5 million in interest until 2032.

"Perhaps if the district had not gone quite as extravagant with the high school, this would not have happened," said school board member Paul Olijar, who chairs the board's finance committee. "It is very disappointing."

The high school project, which was completed in 2005, initially had been estimated at $47 million. The project was plagued with cost overruns, however, and came in at $57 million.

Berk said the approved reimbursement amount on the high school project is $9.8 million. That amount was reached between 2000 and 2002 when the district issued three separate sets of bonds.

Berk said he discovered the district wasn't receiving reimbursement for the $10 million bond issue from 2003 while preparing a preliminary budget for the 2007-08 school year.

Olijar had theorized that planning and construction documents were not submitted to the Department of Education in Harrisburg.

Mark Lukacs, the school district's business manager, who since has been suspended by the district for matters not related to the bond issue, said Wednesday through his lawyer that he filed the proper documents with the Department of Education.

Berk confirmed Lukacs' assertion. "The proper paperwork was filed," he said.

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