Decision on constructing new high school in West Jefferson Hills expected by June

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The financing of $73 million for a new or renovated Thomas Jefferson High School is estimated to cost taxpayers with homes valued at $100,0000 about $299 more in taxes over seven years.

The board will decide by June whether to build or renovate.

That information was part of the presentation "Funding Options and the Millage Impact of Potential Capital Projects Under Consideration," by Jamie Doyle, director of Public Financial Management Inc.

"In the end, this is an investment in our homes," West Jefferson Hills school board President Anthony Angotti said at Tuesday's agenda meeting.

The district is considering three options to modernize its 53-year-old high school, located at 310 Old Clairton Road.

"This building will not sustain us for another 50 years," Mr. Angotti said.

The presentation addressed construction of a new building on a vacant 151-acre site across from the administration building on Old Clairton Road. The district is buying the land for $1 million; the purchase is expected to be finalized next month. But the financing strategies could be applied to any of these options:

• Renovate the existing building for $60 million and open in August 2019.

• Build a new high school on the existing site; convert the old building site to parking and other site amenities for $72 million and open in August 2018.

• Build a new high school on the newly acquired property and demolish the old building for $73 million with December 2017 opening.

In all options, the stadium and fieldhouse would remain on the existing property.

If there is a tax increase to help fund the high school and other future building projects, it will be the first since 2008. The proposed adjusted millage for 2012-2013 is 17.46 due to the county reassessment and Act 1, which states districts cannot receive windfalls from the new assessments.

Under Act 1, the district can raise the millage by 2.2 percent, bringing the rate to 17.84 mills. That's an increase of $38.41 for taxpayers with homes valued at $100,000.

If millage rises less than 0.5 mill in each of the next six years, those same taxpayers would pay additional taxes of between $41.04 and $45.98 a year, for a total of $299.26 over the seven years.

The board is expected to decide by June on other capital building projects in addition to the high school. They include roof replacements and air conditioning, as presented in the District-wide Facilities Master Plan Study to year 2026.

The district's general fund balance was $20.1 million as of June 30 last year; $9 million of that is committed for future capital projects.

In other business, board member Shauna D'Alessandro said she wants to have a superintendent in place very soon to lead the district through the master plan. A search has been ongoing since 2012.

Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, is acting superintendent.

Prior to that, Hamsini Rajgopal served as acting superintendent for a year, and is now acting assistant superintendent. Prior to Mrs. Rajgopal, Timothy McNamee served as acting superintendent.

The district's last superintendent was Terry Kinavey, who was fired by the board in September 2010. Her five-year contract expires in June.

education - neigh_south

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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