Warwick share of $26.5 million renovation debated Career and Tech Center tops discussion at school board, ends in 8-1 vote

By on October 19, 2011

By: MICHAEL C. UPTON Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Colton Watkins and Mikaela SotoColton Watkins and Mikaela Soto

A resolution to approve funding for Lancaster County Career and Technology Center building projects led to a lengthy discussion Tuesday night during a regular business meeting of the Warwick School Board. At stake, a $26.5 million renovation plan for LCCTC campuses.

Upon the recommendation of the district’s finance and legal committee, board member Darryl Miller moved to approve the resolution. Board member Jeff Conrad expressed concerns over verbiage in the resolution that provided an amount not to exceed $43 million for the project.

"My question is, for everybody sitting at this table here, we’re giving folks the opportunity to spend $43 million?" said Conrad.

"No, you’re not," said district business manager David Zerbe. "The resolution actually caps (spending) at $26.5 (million), which is at what the project has been presented."

The resolution reads: "Although the Authority (LCCTC) parameters borrowing resolution provides for an amount not to exceed $43,000,000, it is currently anticipated that the actual aggregate amount borrowed will be between $21,000,000 and $30,000,000… The Authority parameters borrowing resolution reflects debt incurred at a higher maximum amount in order to provide flexibility to cover changes in the bond market and length of debt service. However, the final borrowing amount will be within the Borrowing Limit."

The indenture in the issue itself stipulates that LCCTC will not go above the $26.5 million stated value of the project, explained Zerbe. In order to assure proper phasing — mandated and overseen by the state — the project’s parameters are increased for unforeseen events, said Zerbe. The parameters, he explained, allow for the expansion of the borrowing if necessary.

"If it gets to that point something will change in the process," Zerbe said.

According to board vice president and district representative to the LCCTC Joint Operating Committee, David Pusey, if the plan would need to exceed $26.5 million each district would have to vote to approve an increase up to $40 million.

"The joint operating committee, I can tell you, (out of) all 16 school districts, two-thirds would have to agree to change this parameter. And, in light of the economic situation, I don’t think they’d get that vote," said Pusey.

Zerbe continued to explain additional financial details of the resolution, and ultimately Conrad expressed his unwillingness to fund the project.

"This is an $80,000 savings we could pack in our budget if we didn’t go this route and we said, ‘Hey, why don’t we defer this for another two, three, five years,’ and we see if this economy picks up and at that point we could move forward," Conrad said. "Where does it start? What body in this state or when does someone say, ‘You know, that’s just enough?’ We are going to need money next year, additional money. We’ve got to start saving."

Ultimately, the resolution passed 8-1, with Conrad the lone dissenting vote. During the final public comment period at the end of the meeting, the LCCTC debate rekindled. District resident and current school board candidate Nelson Peters expressed his support for the LCCTC.

"I do appreciate the transparency and good questions on the career and technology (center resolution)," said Peters. "(The LCCTC) has put off some of the improvements that could have been brought on while many of the school districts here in the county were participating in their own capitalization. So, as I agree with Mr. Conrad that the public ought to be aware, (the LCCTC) is one of the greatest resources we have for our students who do have the opportunity to come back and be taxpayers and professionals here in our community."

Also during the finance and legal committee section of the agenda, the LCCTC met with another 8-1 vote (Conrad dissenting) when Miller recommended to approve a resolution to purchase property for a practical nursing instruction site. The resolution grants the district’s approval for LCCTC’s purchase of 422 Beaver Valley Pike, Willow Street. The anticipated price of the property is $1.7 million. Citing questions about private institutions offering an equal educational opportunity and the uncertainty of economic conditions, Conrad cast the lone vote against the measure.

"(The LCCTC) feels that the program, which has been running for eight years now, is a viable program. They have a lot of demand for it. They have students coming in from out of state, coming into the program, paying out of state tuition. It is actually an economic revenue stream," said Pusey.

According to board member Millard Eppig, Jr., the program brought $455,000 in revenue last school year.

In other news, the district approved additions and revisions to the board’s policy manual. Copies are available for review at the district office during regular business hours, said Superintendent Dr. April Hershey. Hershey announced the regular committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 1 will be modified to include a forum on public education. The meeting will be held in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m.

Also, the board approved Susan Shinn-Thomas as the district’s attendance/truancy officer.

During time for public comment prior to regular business, district resident Howard Snoke urged the entire school district and all district residents to rally behind his grass roots "Cans for Education" campaign. Snoke, who has attempted to install collection locations in each school to help fund the district, is disappointed with the results. However, due to the efforts of a few volunteers over the summer he was able to present the district with a check in the amount of $70.50 — that is 138 pounds worth of aluminum.

"I need help. If you have a student in your neighborhood or on your block, save your beverage cans and give them to that kid. Once a month, it’s on the school calendar, put those cans in a bag and give them to that kid," urged Snoke.

All funds raised by the recycling program feed the district’s alternative funding program, ultimately offsetting costs to taxpayers.

According to Zerbe, the alternative funding program is in its infancy, and there are plans to start an alumni association in the near future to help delegate funds. Other projects include implementation of the district’s master plan and assorted education-related projects. More SCHOOL BOARD, page A10

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