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Greater Latrobe approves $10 million bond issue

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 7:29 p.m.

Greater Latrobe School District intends to spend $10 million to make improvements inside and outside of the classroom by building an athletic complex with artificial turf fields, upgrading classroom technology and renovating the junior high school to expand the art program.

The school board set the wheels in motion for the improvements by approving a $10 million bond issue on Tuesday by an 8-1 vote, with director Merle Musick as the lone opponent. Director Michael Zorch said he would have opposed it had the vote occurred last week.

The athletic facilities and fields that will be built and renovated at the junior-senior high school campus will be used in physical education classes, for the district's sports teams and for community use, board members said. Part of the proceeds from the bond issue will be spent for unidentified building projects.

Superintendent Judith Swigart said the district has not yet determined how the proceeds will be divided among the athletic complex, classroom technology and the art curriculum that will be promoted by using hallway space at the junior high school.

To finance the project, the district has hired Janney Montgomery Scott LLC and Janney Capital Markets as investment bankers for selling the bonds. Axis Architecture P.C. of North Huntingdon will start design work on the projects.

The school district will pay an interest rate of 2 percent on the bonds, said Daniel Watson, district business manager. Despite adding $10 million to the district's debt, Greater Latrobe's debt service will remain at $4.7 million a year. The school district has eight more years to repay its existing debt, and the new bond issue will add only two years to that repayment schedule, Watson said.

One resident who questioned the board's plan to spend money on athletic facilities, Greg Fumea of Latrobe, said that just because the interest rates are low "is no reason for going out and blowing millions of dollars." Athletic fields will cost the district money for upkeep, Fumea said.

The artificial turf could last 10 years, depending on the use the fields get and the weather, Swigart said.

Installing artificial turf fields will reduce season-ending and, in some cases, career-ending knee and ankle injuries, said Vincent Pimpinella, the high school girls soccer coach for the past six years.

The district's outdoor fields do not offer the training environment of similar school districts, Pimpinella said.

"It will allow us to significantly improve on that situation," he said.

In a related matter, the Greater Latrobe Partners in Education has begun a two-pronged fundraising campaign -- an annual campaign and a capital campaign to support Greater Latrobe's $10 million capital improvement program, fundraising director Steve Higgins said.

The campaign committee has received "several sizable gift commitments" for the capital campaign, said Higgins, vice president of Bob Carter Companies of Sarasota, Fla. Those commitments are "transformational gifts" for those donors who are making the school district a priority for their philanthropy.

The fundraising committee is in the early stages of the campaign and has contacted only a few top prospective donors.

Higgins praised the commitment made by the district's 19 senior administrators and the entire school board to contribute to the campaign.

The district must do more fundraising because "we can't count on our state government because they cut us every year," board member David Moffa said.

"I think we're going to set the bar for public schools on how to get things done," Moffa said of the fundraising.

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