$5-6 Million in Building Improvements Needed at Pottsville Area School District, Board Prez Says
While cataloging reasons why previous members of the Pottsville Area school board should have raised property taxes or cut expenses some time over the last decade, board president Bud Quandel explained the schools aren’t in the best shape.
At the June meeting of the Pottsville Area school board, Quandel said work to all the buildings to complete a pair of major products could cost between $5-6 million.
Board President: Major Work Needed on Pottsville Schools
He said masonry work at Pottsville Area High School and at its football field could run between $2.5-3 million.
“The masonry at the high school is not in good shape and has been neglected for years,” Quandel said.
And each of the schools – John S. Clarke Elementary, DHH Lengel Middle, and the High School – need about $2.5-3 million in HVAC improvements.
Remember, two years ago, school officials had to delay the start of the 2018-19 term due to a mold issue at the elementary school. Some parents in online social media groups still believe mold is a persistent issue at the school.
“John S. Clarke was completed in 1981. That school has an HVAC system that had a 20-25 year life span. They were kept running by bubble gum and paper clips, as they say,” Quandel added.
The ventilation at the elementary school is modern compared to the one in the middle school, which was apparently installed in 1971.
“That middle school’s HVAC system is close to 50 years old,” Quandel said.
Tax Hikes and/or More Cuts Appear Likely
Well, last week we were told that property tax freezes from 2005-2017 probably weren’t the best decision at the time. As costs kept mounting, Pottsville held the line on property tax rates.
If the district enters into an agreement to take care of these building maintenance issues in the near future, it doesn’t appear that property taxes will be doing anything but going up for a while.
During last week’s meeting, Quandel told us that it could take up to 8 years for Pottsville Area School District to reach the state-recommended General Fund balance “surplus” (about $6 million in the black). That’s what this chart the district shared last week indicates:
The chart also says the cost to do those needed fixes isn’t factored into the chart above.
Conservatively, another $5 million in expenses to fix the masonry and HVAC systems has to come from somewhere. And the plan to bring up the General Fund balance will likely have to come from tax increases, reduction in expenses, and any new revenue source. That’s where the money for these repairs will come from, too.
The district, right now, is really hoping those solar panels pay off handsomely sooner rather than later.