State College

State College Area school board approves referendum amount, wording

The State College Area school board passed two resolutions at its meeting Monday to move toward a high school project referendum.

The board voted 7-2 to set the referendum amount at $85 million and approved the wording of the question that will appear on the ballot 8-1.

Board members Jim Pawelczyk and Laurel Zydney voted against the amount and Pawelczyk also voted against the wording. Pawelczyk has advocated for a lower number and Zydney has expressed interest in a higher referendum amount.

The wording on the ballot will appear as: “Shall debt in the sum of eighty-five million dollars for the purpose of financing new construction and renovations for the State College Area High School be authorized to be incurred as debt approved by the electors?”

Zydney said this is an important step in the process. She called the wording of the question convoluted but said that format is mandated by the law.

“This is what we have to do,” she said. “Basically what this is saying is those people voting are authorizing this to go ahead.”

The total budget for the project has been capped at $115 million and the district would be picking up the remainder of the cost through capital contributions and borrowing. If approved, the project would locate all core academic classes on the south side of Westerly Parkway with renovations to the building and a large portion of new construction.

The board also saw a presentation on the implications of Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget. Corbett’s budget would provide level funding for basic education, career and technical centers and PlanCon, which remains under a moratorium.

If PlanCon funding would increase, the district could potentially see some state reimbursement for the high school project, but it’s not expected to happen and many projects are still ahead of State College, Business Administrator Randy Brown said.

Board member Dorothea Stahl said the most concerning area of level funding is with CTC programs. Corbett proposed to keep it at $62 million for the fifth consecutive year.

She said some legislators tout the high school education system as a way to prepare some people directly for the workforce without postsecondary education. But she said for that to continue, the CTCs need to receive more money to expand programs.

“You just cant have it both ways,” she said.

The General Assembly has until June 30 to pass a final budget.