School Board Passes Budget, Approves Construction Management Firm for High School Project
The State College School Board moved forward with two lengthy processes at its meeting on Monday evening by passing its 2014-2015 budget and approving the high school project’s construction management firm.
The board unanimously approved the Citizen Advisory Committee’s recommendation to use the Pittsburgh-based firm Massaro Construction Management Services for the high school project. Board member David Hutchinson says that the management firm is “a very important position” that plays an integral role in coordinating and implementing a construction plan.
Ed Poprik, the district’s director of physical plant, told the board that the process of selecting a construction management firm to recommend “was a difficult process, but in a good way.” The district received applications from six firms, which was narrowed down to four choices that were then interviewed by the CAC with input from the board.
Now that the construction management firm has been approved, Poprik says his next goal is to assemble the project’s architectural and administrative teams and develop a fleshed-out project calendar. As part of this process, a public meeting will be held with members of local government on July 14 at 6 p.m. at the State College municipal building.
Because of the cost of the high school project, which comes to a total of $115 million, state law required a public referendum. The referendum passed on May 20, authorizing a new 7.2% property tax to fund the extensive construction. For a home with an assessed value of $250,000, this comes to approximately $190 a year for the duration of the high school project.
This additional cost for taxpayers was one of the major influences on this year’s budget development process, Hutchinson says. Though the district was legally able to increase taxes by up to 2.1%, they opted for a lower 1.95% increase. The tax hike was partly the result of rising pension and health insurance costs. The 2014-2015 budget has a millage rate of 39.5056. That will result in a $54 tax increase for the average homeowner.
School board president Penni Fishbaine said in an email prior to the budget’s final passage on Monday that “the board was acutely aware of the impact of the referendum tax on community members” when planning the approximately $126 million document, which can be viewed in its entirety here.
State College Area School District Robert O’Donnell says the district’s budget may still see some minor fluctuations based on allocations in the state budget, which has yet to be passed.
The board also updated the district’s job description for their Website and Social Media Coordinator to more accurately reflect the position’s importance for allowing the district to communicate with the public. A five-cent increase was approved to the cost of school lunches, and contracts were also approved for a construction project to improve security at Mount Nittany Middle School.