School district bids stadium project

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

T he Greencastle-Antrim School Board last Thursday authorized the administration and EI Associates to advertise and accept bids for resurfacing the high school track, and for synthetic turf at the stadium. Alternate bids for a second turf field to the north and lights were also allowed at the Feb. 17 meeting. Project manager Kevin Weller, retained through the Chambersburg school district, said he had to do a final review of the documents before sending them out Friday, but the timeline was important if the district wanted Kaley Field ready for fall sports. In addition, because a school was a non-conforming use in the Borough of Greencastle, the architect would meet with the Greencastle Zoning Hearing Board at 7 p.m. March 3. EI will ask for a special exception to increase the height of the football field light poles from 70 to 80 feet and to install new poles on the multipurpose field on the north side, with poles set within eight feet of the property boundary.

Weller said if the alternate lighting on the practice field was approved, the public still had 45 days to appeal the decision. He had ordered soils tests for the fields already, with evidence of spots that had been dug up.

Board members  Melinda Cordell, Howard Ritchey, Mike Shindle, Joel Fridgen, Brian Hissong, Kristy Faulkner and William Thorne approved the move to seek bids. Eric Holtzman voted no. Paul Politis was absent.

School stats

Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover made a power point presentation of what he termed "interesting facts," to explain Greencastle's ranking among the 500 districts in Pennsylvania, and to inform the board and public on challenges the district faced in meeting normal operating expenses as it prepared the 2011-2012 budget.

G-ASD was the 187th largest district, but was 12th lowest in per pupil expenditures. With a state average of $13,844, G-ASD was at $10,160 per student per year. The staff to pupil ratio (not to be confused with class size) was 17:1, while the average was 13.2 employees per one student. As far as state aid, Greencastle was considered the 155th wealthiest district.

"We're not considered to be a poor school district," said Hoover. “so we don't get much state aid."

Historically the school received 32 percent of its budget revenue from the state, but he was expecting less this year. Even a one percent drop would be the equivalent of 1.8 mills.

The student population grew by 40 percent over the past 20 years, mostly at the secondary level. This year the pattern changed, and enrollment dropped by 14 to stand at 2,984. The kindergarten class was at only 190, while it typically was 220. The average size of each grade level was 240.

Hoover said 150 students were out of the high school each day, participating in various educational programs, which helped alleviate crowded classrooms.

The main purpose of the planned renovation was to add 20 classrooms, upgrade the mechanical systems, and combine the cafeteria and library at the middle and high schools. The first figure announced a couple years ago was $54 million, but that had been curtailed to $28.5 million, which would result in higher reimbursement from the state than a lower cost renovation, due to energy efficient measures. He said the project would require four more mills for each of the next two years.

"That's the scary part," he admitted. "The board is looking hard at cutting the operating budget."

Other options to help keep a tax increase to a minimum were to use reserves or not do the building project, but he said it was a good time with bids coming in 20 percent lower and loan rates attractive.

Other business

The board agreed to consider discussion items for the joint meeting with Greencastle Borough Council and the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors on March 15. The location of the meeting had not been finalized.

The panel approved the establishment of four foundations through the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation. They would allow people to make donations for scholarship, the performing arts, the environmental center and athletics, with no cost to the school district.

"I hope eventually each fund would be self-perpetuating, and we could take those items off our budget, but it probably won't happen during my tenure," Hoover said.

Usually a routine measure to approve supplemental staff assignments, the board tabled action on hiring coaches for spring sports. Shindle asked who determined the number of assistant coaches, since track had five listed. Their salaries and days of service also varied. Administration planned to have explanations by the March 3 meeting, which would still be before the spring season started.