Woodland Hills OKs budget, school upgrades

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The Woodland Hills school board last week approved an $87.9 million budget and voted to move forward on a $15 million renovation of the former Turtle Creek High School.

The district's budget process has been contentious in years past, but this year the budget passed quietly -- it includes no teacher furloughs and a tax rate decrease of 3.81 mills.

Although the rate of 22.40 mills is lower than this year's rate of 26.21 mills, the effect on property owners' tax bills will vary because of the recent Allegheny County property reassessment. Governments and school districts are required by state law to lower their millage rates to remain "revenue neutral" after property reassessments.

The budget passed, 6-3, with board members Fred Kuhn, Tara Reis and Bob Tomasic dissenting.

The board also approved a contract with the Foreman Group to renovate Woodland Hills Academy, which is housed in the former Turtle Creek High School and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The renovations will cost about $15 million and will make the building safer, cleaner, more modern and handicapped-accessible, Terry Thompson, an architect with the Foreman Group, said during a May presentation in the academy's auditorium.

The upgrades would be funded out of $20 million remaining from a $25 million bond issue the district took out in 2005.

Board members voted to OK the contract, 7-2, with Ms. Reis and Mr. Tomasic dissenting.

The district also has been in the process of promoting substitute superintendent Alan Johnson as the permanent head of the district.

Donald Palmer, the district's solicitor, said during last Wednesday's meeting that Mr. Johnson is reviewing the draft contract the district has prepared. In the meantime, the board voted unanimously to appoint Mr. Johnson as acting superintendent.

The board also voted unanimously last week to begin negotiating a contract with Jerry Chessman, the former transportation director, to take over the newly created position of assistant to the superintendent. If Mr. Chessman takes that job, he will be paid a salary of $85,000.

education - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1613 or on Twitter @AnnieSiebert.


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