The location of the Mt. Lebanon High School rifle team's home range could change, depending on a decision by the school board in the next few months.
The range is on the third floor of the high school's main academic building, which is being renovated. The board must determine whether to upgrade the range --at an estimated cost of more than $400,000 --or pay for an off-site facility.
Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer brought the matter to the board for discussion as the renovation project approaches work on the third floor. Improving the range, which would be required to meet various government standards, was not included in the project.
"Our intent tonight is just to put it back on the board's radar," Mr. Steinhauer said during Monday's discussion meeting.
Board member Dan Remely noted that the topic has come up one month after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"I am not opposed to the program at all," Mr. Remely said of the rifle team, but about the firearms, he said: "I just don't even like the fact that they're there in the high school. Maybe there are better facilities that could be used by our students at a reasonable cost."
Board members plan to more closely examine the cost of upgrading the school's range versus contracting for accommodations. Mr. Steinhauer said he talked with Mt. Lebanon police officers about the possibility of a joint rifle-range venture but "the caliber of weapons is quite dissimilar."
The board will invite athletic director John Grogan and rifle coach Dave Willard to speak at a future meeting about specifics of the program. Board member Lawrence Lebowitz also requested that team members provide input.
Rifle is a co-ed team sport under the auspices of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League. Other participating high schools include Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, Trinity Area, McGuffey and Woodland Hills.
In other business Monday:
• The board discussed the 2013-14 budget, a preliminary version of which must be approved by Feb. 20 if the district plans to apply for exceptions to the state's Act 1 index.
The index is used to determine the maximum tax increases a district levies. Exceptions can be granted by the state Department of Education for school construction debts, special education expenditures and retirement contributions.
Mt. Lebanon in recent years has approved preliminary budgets with the spending estimate high enough to reflect the need for any exceptions. Figures generally have been revised later in the process.
Business director Janice Klein said that at this point, next year's budget relies on numerous variables that are not yet known, including the amount of money the district will receive from the state, along with health care costs and internal factors such as course selections and staff retirement. Compounding the situation is Allegheny County's reassessment, which delayed the release of new property values for 2013.
"All of those factors, when you fit them in, create a lot of uncertainty in this budget," Ms. Klein said.
Board member Jo Posti said major decisions about spending should be made later.
"This is just a starting point that every school district in the commonwealth has to go through as part of the budget process," she explained.
• One year into the project, the high school renovation is 28 percent finished and on target for completion as scheduled in May 2015, said Tom Berkebile of P.J. Dick Inc., construction manager.
During the board's monthly construction update, he also said the science building and competition gymnasium are on way to being ready for the start of the 2013-14 academic year.
Next week, the board will vote on $35,000 in project change orders. Included is a carpet installation that will cost about $1,800 less than the original invoice, with the figured revised after Mr. Remely questioned the amount last month.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: email@example.com.