SF looking at options to address overcrowding

Published Feb 27, 2014 at 10:48 am (Updated Feb 27, 2014 at 10:48 am)

Overcrowding at South Fayette High School has led the district’s school board to move forward with a feasibility study to look at options for developing new and expanded high school facilities. At a Feb. 25 meeting, the board voted to authorize Eckles Architecture to conduct the study at a rate not to exceed $15,000, which would be credited back to the district once a project begins.

South Fayette High School was constructed about 10 years ago and was designed to fit about 800 students. Currently, about 757 students attend the school. Projections show that by 2015 there will be 805 students enrolled. The school is expected to grow by between 13 and 16 percent by 2020, according to demographer Dr. Shelby Stewman. By that year, between 1,077 and 1,094 students could be attending the school.

In attendance at the meeting were Joe Brennan and John Taormina of P.J. Dick, the construction management firm the district used for its recently-completed intermediate school project. P.J. Dick was asked to return to the district for the possible upcoming expansion project.

“We are honored and ecstatic to be back in the district,” Taormina told the board. He added that P.J. Dick has performed feasibility studies for other school districts.

“We know you have some sight and logistical challenges there,” he said.

Taormina said the firm will work on getting an official proposal to the district within the next few weeks and will touch base with Eckles Architecture.

“P.J. Dick and Eckles did a great job on the intermediate school. We are pleased to work with both companies again,” said Superintendent Dr. Bille Roninelli.

Also at the meeting, the board received an update on the district’s borrowing capacity from Jamie Doyle of Public Financial Management via telephone.

Doyle informed the board the district has about $20.8 million in borrowing capacity, but at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, that figure moves up to $30.7 million. Doyle said that the district’s capacity is based on a two percent growth rate, which she said is conservative because the district is growing much faster than two percent.

She added that because the numbers change with the fiscal year, the borrowing capacity would have to be looked at again if the district decides to borrow for the high school expansion project. Doyle said the borrowing capacity is based on the district’s revenue for the last three years and the amount of outstanding debt.

The board approved the district’s 2013 audit. It was also presented at the meeting by Steve Niedenberger of the firm Hosack, Spect, Muetzel and Wood. He said the district had a clean audit for 2013 and has assets of $17.7 million and $4.8 million in liabilities, with $12.8 million in fund balance and $4.1 million in the capital projects fund.

Of the $12.8 million fund balance, Niedenberger said $9.8 million of that is committed to paying for expected increases in PSERS (Public School Employees Retirement System) and OPEB (Other Post Employee Benefits) and a “very small portion is unassigned.”

“Your debt level is pretty high already,” he said.

Also, Niedenberger pointed out that the district has $72.6 million in bonds outstanding.

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