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Ready to Replace? Seneca Valley Considers $5 Million Loan for Building Projects

With the district’s roofs, cooling and heating systems reaching their expiration dates, officials are contemplating using the bond money for preventive maintenance projects at Seneca Valley’s schools.

With interest rates at record lows, officials are considering taking out a $5 million loan to use for building and ground projects around the district over the next three years.

“It’s a great time to borrow if you need the money,” said district bond counsel Robert Aumer, of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Aumer presented officials with preliminary information for taking out the 12-year bond issue for $5 million. Interest rates are currently between just below 1 percent to 2.5 percent, he said.  

The money would be used repair or replace a number of elderly district structures, including the roof at the and boilers at three of the elementary schools.

Officials emphasized the loan would be used for preventative maintenance—and not to expand or add on to any school buildings.

“This is very necessary repair and replacement and maintenance,” said school board member Jim Nickel.

Linda Andreassi, district director of communications, said the projects would be parceled out in three tentative phases that would take place during the summer months over the next several years.

The Project Costs

The first phase would cost about $2.2 million and consist of replacing the 18-year-old roof at the senior high school as well as the early 1990s-era cooling systems at the senior and intermediate high schools. Robert Cook, Seneca Valley’s director of buildings, grounds and security, noted the 10-year warranty on the senior high school’s roof expired in 2004.

“In my opinion, our buildings are beautiful. They’re fantastic buildings,” he said. “But unfortunately, they do have components that are getting very old on them and we have to replace them.”

At a cost of about $1.1 million, the second phase would include replacing the rooftops at Connoquenessing Valley,, and schools and at, Andreassi said.

Costing about $2.7 million, the third phase of the project would replace the boilers at Connoquenessing, Evans City and Rowan elementary schools. It also includes electric service upgrades at the senior and and at Connoquenessing Valley, plus lighting upgrades to the intermediate high school.

The total cost for the projects is about $6 million, or $1 million more than the district is considering borrowing. However, district business manager Lynn Burtner said Seneca Valley has about $1 million left from bond money it received in 2010 for capital improvement projects.

Of the $4 million borrowed in 2010, Burtner has said $3 million was used to pay for the district’s share of the Butler County Vocation Technical School’s $11 million renovation project.

The remaining million originally was earmarked for a new press box at NexTier Stadium.

Those plans were Burtner said what’s left of the bond money may only be used for capital improvements. It cannot be used to augment the district's operating budget.

The same goes for the $5 million the district is considering borrowing for the buildings and grounds projects. Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale said school districts are not permitted to use the money for staff salaries or benefits, which make up the majority of the Seneca Valley’s budgeting expenditures.

Under repayment terms for the loan, Burtner said Seneca Valley would pay about $130,000 per year for the next 10 years. The remaining principal of the loan would be due in the last two years of the bond issue, she said.

Aumer added there is potential to refinance a bond issue from 2003 later in the 2012-13 school year that could save the district about $300,000 in the next five years. The money saved could be used to repay the $5 million loan, he said.   

The board will decide on whether approve to Janney Montgomery Scott LLC to proceed with the financing the bond at its next meeting at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17.

New Band Uniforms, School Marquee a Possibility

There also was talk Monday of using the financing to help buy new uniforms for the marching band. The band’s current uniforms are 12 years old and often need mending, Vitale said.

“We have people trying to patch them together at the beginning of the year, and as the enrollment keeps increasing with our marching bands, those uniforms aren’t going to last you more than a year or two out if you’re lucky,” she said. “We’re struggling at this point.”

Vitale said new uniforms would cost about $118,000. She said the district has spoken to the marching band's boosters organization as well as the band’s foundation about fundraising to help defray the costs of the uniforms.

The board also discussed the possibility of adding an electronic marquee sign outside the school, possibly along Interstate 79 or Route 68, that would promote school accolades and events—as well as mark the entrance to the school’s secondary campus in Jackson Township.

“That is a communications, public relations, marketing piece that you need to consider,” Vitale said. “I can’t tell you how many times people have called and said, ‘I don’t know where the campus is.’” 

While Nickel already has said he sees a marquee as a “nice to have” instead of a “need to have,” school board member Jeanette Lahm was in favor of the electronic board as a marketing tool.

School board Vice-President Eric Gordon questioned if the sign could be used to generate revenue for the district through advertising on the board. Vitale also said she also would solicit donations for a marquee.

The board is expected to discuss the possibility of the marquee and band uniforms being rolled into the financing in more detail at their next meeting. 

Mary September 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM
When I was in band the district bought the first uniforms, and the rest were left for the band boosters to buy. A Marquee sign........I thought that we didn't have money and were laying off teachers and cutting classes. I can see now that we still don't have our priorities in order. What we need is a safe building with utilities that work. No extras right now....we have no money for them!
Tom September 11, 2012 at 11:43 AM
The pressbox, even though on the back burner, continues to be an issue. It is old, in need of replacement, and not up to WPIAL class AAAA standards. The problem being, that if built it MUST be built to current building codes including accessibility codes which includes rest rooms and elevators if more than one story. Gone are the days when school personnel or booster groups can do that kind of work. Therein is the $1 million plus cost.
Earl Grubbs September 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I am sympathic with SVSD in the ever increasing State mandated nuances of SVSD funding of employee retirement from the current level of PSERS at 12.4% to 27% commencing in 2019, and at present I am working this ever "increasing homeowner tax issue" burden with PA State Officials. Additionally I am in agreement that replacement reserves funds must be acquired, budgeted and allocated for necessary maintenance of fixed assets. What I am not in agreement with is the potential SVSD spending targeted to items which are not a necessity towards educating our children. With the last two years of raising our homeowner taxes by 10% and the steep reductions of precious teaching assets, I believe we should focus on the critical "must have spending decisions" and not the trivia "it would be nice to have." When economic times are more fruitful, then and only then should money be targeted for the "nice to have." A "$188K for band uniforms here and a new cost yet to be determined marquee sign there" soon adds up to a lot of money SVSD could more aptly and wisely allocate elsewhere! "Live within one's means" is not mutually exclusive from providing our children with a quality education.
Lisa September 11, 2012 at 06:48 PM
AIR CONDITIONING!!! I can't believe we cannot afford to put our children in a 'comfortable' learning environment. If they're going to go to school until mid June (which is really late already..) PLEASE provide these children some AIR before somebody passes out. At Haine, my son is up on the 3rd floor & it's hard to breathe up there (yes, even in the winter).
Mary September 12, 2012 at 10:32 AM
I must agree with you Lisa! I could never understand why it is a crime to keep pets in a hot car while we have children in classrooms that can get to 100 degrees......and the temperature is not monitored in any way, nor at any time.

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