Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending

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        Citizens, Parents, and Schools working together to bring Avon Grove into the 21st Century!

Facilities Planning Meeting*
Committee of the Whole Meeting
March 27, 2018


The School Board met to continue its discussion on the school facilities. The objective of the meeting was to narrow down to 2 options and agree a corresponding budget for further discussion.  School Board members include: Ms Tracy Lisi (Chair), Mr John Auerbach, Mr Charles Beatty, Mr Jeff  Billig, Mr Rick Dumont, Mr Herman Engel, Ms Lynn Weber, Mr Bill Wood, and Ms Bonnie Wolff.   All were present for the discussion except Mr Engel.

The options that have been considered at previous meetings include:
FIG Option 1A: Estimated Cost = $138 million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Build new high school (HS) on Sunnyside site
Renovate and convert existing HS to 6-8 middle school (MS)
Abandon/demo/sell existing MS
A scaled down version of this option was available for consideration at $102 million.  This is achieved by downsizing the new HS and a more modest investment to convert the current HS to a MS.

FIG Option 1C: Estimated Cost = $137million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Build new grade 6-8 MS on Sunnyside site
Renovate existing HS, Build new Core Facilities between HS/MS combine to make a HS
A scaled down version of this option was available for consideration at $127 million.  This is achieved by downsizing the new MS.

FIG Option 1D: Estimated Cost = $128 million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Renovate and add to existing MS (6-8 grade structure)
Renovate and add to existing HS

Option 4A: Estimated Cost = $93 million
Renovate and expand HS to appropriate size (remove modular)
Expand MS (7-8) to remove modular classrooms and build to demographic projection
Expand PLES (K-2) to remove modular classrooms and build to demographic projection
A scaled down version of this option was available for consideration at $77 million which was achieved by making different assumptions about the renovation scope.

Ms Lisi started the meeting by reviewing what has been agreed at previous meetings:
Modular classrooms should be removed from all buildings
Option 1D has been eliminated from further discussion
Utilization rates have been agreed: 90% for PLE and AGI, 85% for the MS and HS
Enrollment projections for each building have been agreed upon.

Ms Lisi then asked the board if Option 4A is still being considered.Mr Dumont, Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, and Mr Beatty responded that they support Option 4A.They felt that this option allowed the district to focus its attention first on the building with the greatest need by renovating and expanding the HS building to an appropriate size while also removing the modular classrooms from all buildings. Mr Auerbach stated that he believed there were opportunities in Option 4A to do more than is currently included in that option.He suggested putting collaborative spaces between the wings of the building.There could also be classrooms on the second floor of the high school. All four indicated that they wanted to keep costs as reasonable as possible because they were concerned with the ability of residents to pay the higher taxes associated with the other options.A $52 million to $77 million borrowing scenario seemed reasonable since the current budget could support borrowing at this level with a minimal increase in taxes.

Mr Wood stated that he will not support Option 4A because:
The school district will lose the “gifted” elements of the property at Sunnyside (the ownership of some part of the land will revert back to the seller if certain conditions are not met early next year).
The school district could lose an athletic field at the State Rd site when the middle school is expanded to eliminate the modular classrooms.
It will be difficult to renovate a school while students are attending classes.
There would not be a 6-8 grade Middle School.
The State Rd site is landlocked; there is no possibility for future expansion.
No PlanCon reimbursement is possible because this scenario was never submitted to the State for consideration.

Mr Dumont commented that borrowing $127 million puts a tremendous burden on the residents.For residents with a home assessed at $169,600, taxes could increase more than $1000 over the next 7 years. He is worried that many of them will not be able to afford it and may lose their homes.He wants to find a better balance for both the students (new/renovated facilities) and residents (increased taxes).He is worried that if the school district borrows $127million, the school district could become “house poor” resulting in the district not having the money to retain excellent teachers, provide innovative educational programs, and support extracurricular activities.

Ms Beatty then presented 2 alternative proposals that he believes could be delivered within a $81million budget.One was a modification of Option 4A that renovates the HS and adds 80,000 sq ft while also adding more space to the MS.The second proposal was a modification of Option 1C.It includes building a new middle school on the Sunnyside site and using the current HS and MS with a simple connector as the new HS.Mr Billig thanked Mr Beatty for his suggestion and stated he was intrigued by the less expensive version of Option 1C.He would like to see this option further developed.

Mr Wood stated that Option 4A should no longer be considered by the board.He does not support it and believes that the majority of members of the board also don’t support it.Superintendent Marchese agreed with Mr Wood and stated that Option 4A is bad choice and should be eliminated from the list of options. This opinion was supported by Ms Lisi, Ms Wolff and Mr Billig.There was some question as to what Mr Engel would say if he were present though it was noted that in a previous meeting he was in favor of building either a new HS or a MS at Sunnyside.

Mr Wood went on to say that he was torn between Option 1A and 1C.Option 1A would build a new HS which is the area of greatest need for district.However, there would be an empty building on the State Rd campus.Option 1C would keep the HS in the same location as the stadium.

Mr Auerbach stated that if 4A is no longer being considered, he sees Option 1A (build a new HS) as a far superior option to Option 1C (build a new MS) but the cost is too high.Option 1C also has many of the complexities of Option 4A.In both cases, the State Road campus is at its maximum capacity with no room for expansion.

Ms Wolff stated that she supports Option 1C; the HS should be with the Stadium.
Mr Billig supports Option 1C because the Sunnyside site is better suited for a MS.
Ms Weber stated that she believes the cost of Option 1C or 1A are too expensive for the residence.She is also concerned about the increase traffic at the Sunnyside site if either of these options is pursued.
Ms Lisi favors Option 1C.She agrees with the reasons expressed by Mr Billig and Ms Wolff.The HS should be with the stadium.

There was then some discussion on whether a modified Option 1C as proposed by Mr Beatty is possible for $80million.The smallest MS that still meets the district’s needs would likely cost $50 million with completing the delayed maintenance on the HS costing $20 million.This would leave $10 million to renovate and connect the old HS and MS and remove the modular classrooms.$115 million seems to be the minimum cost for Option 1C.


Ms Lisi asked the board to comment on what borrowing limit they could support.She also asked the board to comment on the options they favored.Please note that Option 4A is no longer under consideration.The following is the board’s responses:
Ms Lisi$127 million; Option 1C
Mr Dumont$77 million; Option 1A
Ms Wolff$127 million; Option 1C
Mr Auerbach$77-80 million; Option 1A
Mr BilligWants to see Mr Beatty modified Option 1C further developed but also said earlier he was in favor of a $127 million; Option 1C.
Ms Weber$77 million; Still prefers Option 4A followed by modified 1C
Mr WoodHS or MS on the Sunnyside site
Mr Beatty$80 million; Modified Option 1C

 Discussion on Options 1C and 1A will continue at the next meeting planned for April 3rd with the objective of agreeing on 1 option with a corresponding budget.A second facility strategy meeting is scheduled for April 12th.A final decision on the facilities and borrowing limits is planned to be completed in April.
Mr Dumont closed out the meeting by stating that he is genuinely concerned about the ability of the residents to absorb a tax increase that can exceed $1000 over 7 years.Having to increase school taxes by the maximum allowed for the next 5 to 7 years will force some residents out of their homes.We need to find a fiscally responsible way to improve the facilities for the students while not harming our residents.


The next Committee of the Whole Meeting will be help on Tuesday, April 3rd at the Fred S Engle Middle School Library/Media Center, 6PM.
  Come and support your option!


*Call to Action
It is important that your position on increasing taxes and building new school facilities is heard. It is critical that community members attend upcoming school board meetings and/or send letters via e-mail to the school board and administration to make their position known. The District Calendar can be found
here.   Watch the district calendar for updates.  Information about the board, including E-mail addresses, can be found
here.

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