Board learns tax impact for school renovations


The impact on taxpayers for renovating the schools was presented to the Greencastle-Antrim School Board Jan. 7. Three scenarios were given by Gregg McLanahan, consultant with Public Financial Management, Harrisburg. Financing the debt for remodeling the middle and high schools into one building, adding space in the primary school, rearranging the elementary school and upgrading the athletic complex could be handled in several ways.

Based on the $54 million pricetag anticipated by architectural firm EI Associates, McLanahan said if that amount was borrowed, the mill increase would be 15.26 by the two-year mark, with 9.83 mills in 2010-2011 and 5.43 mills in 2011-2012. An option to finance over four years would bring the mill rate up 14.88. Doing a wraparound of old debt with new debt would add $5 million to the project's cost but keep the mill rate more palatable, at 12.65.

Should the district downscale the construction, McLanahan said a $45 million bond upfront would require a 13.5 mill increase. Staggered borrowing would necessitate 13.25 mills and a wraparound 10.87 mills.

Financing $35 million at once would mean an increase of 11.68 mills over the course of two years, 11.51 mills over four years, and 8.96 with a wraparound.

"You need a strategy," McLanahan said. "The board years ago in its wisdom incurred debt which it did not issue. You can borrow $32.7 million and the tax increase does not apply to the Act 1 index, even up to eight or nine mills." Another formula of borrowing against a percent of construction costs, using square footage, avoided the index cap as well, he informed the board.

Act 1 requires a public referendum if a proposed mill rate exceeds 3.5 percent of the current levy. Greencastle's property tax rate is now 91.7 mills. The consultant added that state-mandated teacher retirement contributions from the district were anticipated to take a big jump in 2011-2012.

Greencastle did not qualify for school construction bonds, which were applicable to very poor or rapidly growing districts, he said.

McLanahan noted the district had two 2005 A Bonds which could be refinanced in the current market for a savings of $171,000 after expenses.

The board clarified that the mill increase for construction did not include new personnel for the schools or current operating expenses.

Business manager Richard Lipella emphasized the session was strictly informational. "This is 'what if' stuff. The board has to ask 'What can we get for this and what does it cost us?'"

Lipella said state reimbursement of construction costs was predicated on a number of standards, but would run about 20 percent.

School Resource Officer

At a worksession after the regular meeting, the board discussed whether to proceed with hiring a School Resource Officer. The idea had been initiated by Greencastle Police Chief John Phillippy, and been under consideration by the borough and school for months. The question was who would pay for the service. Antrim Township had declined to contribute to funding the position.

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover said board members still had lots of questions, but basically the school district was out of the picture because of finances. "We can't afford an SRO. We're restricted in raising taxes. If we ever have to go over the index, it will be for other things."

He said he didn't yet know kindergarten enrollment for fall, but wanted to save money for additional teachers, if needed.

Other business

The board accepted the 2008/2009 fiscal audit of Smith Elliot Kearns & Company. Kevin Stouffer reported that the general fund for the year, which ended June 30, finished with revenues of $30.64 million, up $750,000 from the previous year. Expenses were $30.63 million, up $875,000 from 2008. The district ended $13,000 to the good. The $5.2 million general fund balance after other funding sources were incorporated marked a 17 percent carryover, which Stouffer said exceeded their standard of 8 to 12 percent.

A few recommendations were made - to better document information technology protection procedures already in place, to understand any implications with accepting stimulus funds, and to safeguard intangible assets such as district-created IT programs. Fellow CPA Luke Martin concluded, "The audit went smoothly. It's been a pleasure serving you one more year."

Several student trips were approved - high school band and chorus to New York City for adjudication April 30 to May 2, middle school band to perform at the State Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg May 5, and the high school baseball team  to Fredericksburg, Vir. March 11 to 15 for spring training. The high school Indoor Guard program was also approved to expand to include a middle school program.

Board members were appointed to various committeees. Delegates and alternates are listed respectively. G-A Education Foundation, Kristy Faulkner and Joel Fridgen; Franklin County Career and Technology Center Joint Operating Committee, Mike Shindle and Howard Ritchey; FCCTC Technical Authority, Paul Politis and Shindle; Franklin Learning Center JOC, Politis and Eric Holtzman; G-A Chamber of Commerce, William Thorne and Fridgen; Personnel, Shindle, Holtzman and Arnie Jansen as representatives; Franklin County Council of Governments, Fridgen and Hoover; Pennsylvania School Board Association Legislative Liaison, Ritchey; Lincoln Intermediate Unit No. 12 Board of Directors, Ritchey and Brian Hissong; Tayamentasachta Advisory, Ritchey and Politis; Facilities, Ritchey, Thorne and Hissong as representatives; Treasurer, Holtzman; Comprehensive 10 Year Plan, Thorne; G-A Environmental and Safety, Politis; Teacher Dress Code Ad Hoc, Faulkner, Holtzman, Ritchey and Thorne as representatives; Act 32 EIT Tax Collection, Lipella, Holtzman and Jansen; EIT Bylaws, Lipella. A new Finance Committee was formed with Holtzman, Fridgen and Faulkner as members.

Students disciplined

Two sophomore boys were expelled for the balance of the school year and assigned an alternative education program. The 15- and 16-year old youths brought alcohol to school Dec. 18 and consumed it on campus. They will also be on social probation and must complete the Franklin County Reality Tour. Neither had been in trouble at school before, said principal Ed Rife.