Tyrone Middle School expansion project creates tax hike concern at public hearing

At least one Tyrone Area School District taxpayer was not happy about the plans for an estimated $10 million expansion and renovation project at the district’s middle school.
Eleanor Miller expressed her views during the comment portion of a legally required Act 34 hearing yesterday. Miller was one of about half a dozen citizens who were present at the hearing, which was also attended by several school officials, including the majority of the district’s school board.
In addition to Miller, others expressed concern about the lack of attendance at the hearing indicating the public avoided the hearing because they didn’t think they could make a difference. Other members of the public asked for clarification about building design issues which were handled by a representative of Hayes Large Architects from Altoona.
“Why build another building with the idea the state will reimburse us. They are cutting back with the funds they are giving to anyone,” said Eleanor Miller. “ I don’t feel they (the district) are being fair to the taxpayers. Seniors are on a fixed income. The home owners are going to pay, low-income housing people don’t have to pay for it.”
It was pointed out in a booklet that was distributed at the hearing there are no plans to raise taxes to fund the project. The district is planning to use cash or borrow the money and pay it back out of its cash reserve if financing would actually create a advantageous situation for the district.
However there are indirect costs associated with the project would could create an estimated 7.86 mill increase unless other funding is obtained.
“I always look at what might be, there is no guarantee they are going to get it (the other funding) and once the building is up we are going to have to pay for it,” said the concerned taxpayer.
According to an outline presented at the hearing, the indirect costs of the project includes additional administrative staff in the form of an assistant middle school principal. Changes to the professional staff won’t include any additional teachers since the current fifth grade teachers will move to the new addition. However, with the addition of the fifth grade to the middle school it will be necessary to increase the part-time counselor to full-time.
An additional nine-month clerical staff member will be needed to support the assistant principal and increased guidance staff. Two additional custodians will be necessary to properly maintain the 59,000 square foot addition. More hours will be needed in the cafeteria to provide services to satellite an additional 175 meals from the current high school kitchen.
The outline also indicated the new addition will result in operational costs, such as electric, water and sewer costs along with additional natural gas, maintenance supplies and insurance costs. No increase in transportation costs are expected as a result of the project.
The total annual indirect costs are estimated at $336,000.
“I wish we would have had more people in attendance to make comments and hear a broader spectrum of comments,” said Lee Stover, Tyrone Area school board president. “The people who were here did speak up and we are glad they came and voiced their opinions.
“That’s been our biggest concern (indirect costs) since we have the money to cover the structural costs,” said Stover. “We have strived to keep our tax increase at zero. We want to provide a full middle school concept and having the money on hand we will do everything we can to minimize the impact on the taxpaying population.”
“We hope to do move into it with no tax increase, we’ll see how it shakes out,” Stover told The Daily Herald.
Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller also expressed concern regarding another facet of the project.
“If bids come in extremely high that’s a concern because we don’t have that many options (in terms of leaving things out of the project) that would not affect the facility,” stated Dr. Miller.
“We are not looking to use all our reserve money to pay for this project so we can have money left in reserve to protect the district,” said the school superintendent.
“The indirect costs are operational costs which reoccur,” said Dr. Miller. “The lady had a point, we have to reassess where we are, see if we can consolidate or reassign some things and look to funding sources (in order to avoid a tax increase).”