Officials may borrow up to $50M to renovate
Woodland Hills school officials are expected Wednesday to approve borrowing as much as $50 million to renovate several buildings, including Wolvarena stadium in Turtle Creek.
School officials said they won’t know the tax impact until loan terms and the state’s reimbursement are determined, district spokeswoman Pat Dawson said.
School board member Linda Cole said taxpayers can expect minimal tax rate increases over the course of the project because the work will be done in phases. The current rate is 23.3 mills, meaning the owner of a $50,000 home pays $1,165 a year in school taxes. The district last raised taxes in 2003, when the rate went up by 1.4 mills.
The district floated two bonds in the 1990s — a $9 million bond in 1997 for technology upgrades and $36 million in 1998-99 for renovations of Edgewood and Wilkins primary schools and the high school.
“We have a lot of old buildings,” Cole said. “We have to get started on them.”
Board members discussed getting the next renovation started before changes in state laws that would force the district to seek a referendum to raise taxes for such a project. Board members said that despite an overwhelming need to improve the buildings, voters might not approve the plan because of expected tax increases.
“Anytime you have a referendum in Pennsylvania, it’s very difficult to get it passed,” board President Cynthia Lowery said.
The district serves 5,700 students from 12 communities.
The renovation project, based on a study of the district’s buildings, would include East Junior High School, Shaffer Primary School, Rankin and Fairless elementary schools and the administration building. The report by HHSDR Architects, of Sharon, Mercer County, recommended improvements to each of the district’s buildings.
The study said the Wolvarena, named by USA Today as one of the top 10 places in the country to watch a high school football game, needs to be replaced or renovated. The study cited shifting concrete, steep steps, poor drainage, inadequate parking, poor locker rooms and too few restrooms among other problems.
Other recommendations in the report included:
Cole said the project would start with East Junior High.
Dawson said work would not begin before next year.
Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the administration building, 2430 Greensburg Pike, Churchill.