State College school board debates referendum cost, approves high school design

mmorgan@centredaily.comDecember 2, 2013 

— Poised to set a referendum maximum amount at the Dec. 16 meeting, each State College Area school board member took an opportunity to voice his or her opinion of the potential number at the meeting Monday night.

The majority of the board members said they would be comfortable setting the maximum at $85 million instead of $75 million, with some saying that number might come down before a final amount is chosen.

Board member David Hutchinson said he might be willing to bring the number down to $75 million when more information and cost estimates come out, but he wouldn’t pigeonhole the district into a low number at this time.

“If you’re setting the maximum, obviously you could come down from a maximum, but if you set it low you cant come up from a maximum,” he said.

Board President Penni Fishbaine and members Jim Leous and Scott Fozard also said they would be comfortable at $85 million, and board member Laurel Zydney said she would be willing to go even higher for a maximum.

But Vice President Amber Concepcion and board member Jim Pawelczyk would not be OK going more than $75 million, and board member Dorothea Stahl would like to see $75 million and would not want to go higher than $80 million. Board member Ann McGlaughlin was absent.

Acknowledging that everyone wants to see the entire project completed, Concepcion said there is such a need to fix the buildings that she wouldn’t want to take a chance of a failed referendum by asking too much of the community.

“The facility is in such disrepair that we really urgently need to address this,” she said, adding that the $75 million referendum combined with the district allocation should be enough to adequately address the vast majority of the project.

The board previously set a project maximum of $115 million and would make up the difference with district funding for capital projects.

The difference between $75 million and $85 million is about $20 per year for the average homeowner for the likely 30-year duration of the bond, businesses administrator Randy Brown said, adding that all projections are just estimates with numerous unknown factors.

The board also voted unanimously Monday to officially move forward with the building Option 2 for the project, positioning the majority of new construction in a crescent shape in front of the current South Building.

“This one was so incredibly obvious,” Zydney said. “I’ve heard nobody that said they preferred the Option 1.”

Physical Plant Director Ed Poprik said there won’t be any more substantial schematic design updates for about the next about six weeks because the team has switched its focus to cost estimation.

Before the regular meeting, the board held a reorganization meeting. Fozard, Fishbaine, Leous and Hutchinson were sworn in, and Fishbaine and Concepcion were re-elected as president and vice president, respectively.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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