CASD proceeds with bond issue and reorganizes|
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Clearfield Area School District voted to move forward with a bond issue to fund the high school and elementary school building projects and to make some changes to its cyber school program to make it more competitive with other programs at its meeting last night.
The board voted unanimously to authorize the district's administration to work with its financial advisor, Public Financial Management of Harrisburg to issue $18.65 million in General Obligation Bonds for capital improvements to the high school and middle school.
A $35 million renovation and expansion project is already underway at the high school and the district is planning to expand and renovate Clearfield Elementary at a cost of $10.6 million, but a final decision has not been made on the elementary school project.
The construction projects would allow the district to consolidate all of its classrooms into two buildings, K-6 in Clearfield Elementary and 7-12 at the high school.
The district has already issued two series of bond issues for $9.8 million in 2011 and $9.9 million in 2012 for the high school. The $18.65 million 2013 series of bonds would also be used for the high school as well as for start up costs for the elementary school project, according to Gregg McLanahan, director of PFM. The district is anticipating issuing another series of bonds in 2014 totaling $8.15 million for the remaining elementary school costs.
The district is spacing out its borrowing in a series of issues based on its construction schedule to lower its interest expense and minimize using funds out its general fund to pay for the building projects, according to Sam Maney, business administrator for the district.
McLanahan said interest rates are nearing historical lows and said they haven't been this low since the Eisenhower Administration.
He said the current budget negotiations in Washington D.C. regarding the "fiscal cliff" could have an impact on the interest rate the district would see. He said if President Barack Obama's proposal to raise taxes on the highest income earners goes through, the district likely would benefit from lower interest rates because it would make its bonds more attractive. Because the district's bonds are tax free, and it would make them more attractive to investors in comparison to other investments, which would be taxed at a higher rate.
If the district decides to move forward with the bond issue, McLanahan said they expect to issue the bonds in February.
The board also approved changes to its cyber school to make it more competitive to outside cyber schools. The district currently has about 120 students enrolled in cyber-school, out of which approximately 35 are enrolled in the district's own cyber school program, the remaining 85 are enrolled with outside cyber schools.
After having some discussions with parents, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Otto said they decided to make some changes to the program to offer services that outside cyber schools offer students such as providing a printer, paper and ink cartridges as well as paying up to $50 a month for nine months for internet access.
Otto said the changes would add about $700 per student per year enrolled in its cyber school program but he said it is still far less expensive than the cost of paying for students enrolled in out of district cyber schools.
Otto said it costs the district roughly $15,000 per student enrolled in an outside cyber school program while it costs about $4,000 per student enrolled in the district's cyber school program and Otto said many of the outside cyber school programs are using the same program that the district uses.
He said students who choose to enroll in the district's cyber school program instead of an outside cyber school get several other advantages as well. Students who graduate in the district's cyber school program receive a Clearfield diploma and get to participate in its high school graduation ceremonies. They also can participate in in-school programs and activities that occur during school such as its agriculture program or school clubs.
State law already allows all cyber school students to participate in after school extra-curricular sports and activities, Otto said.
Board President Dave Glass said the board believes having students present in its brick and mortar schools is the best option for students and said the district is offering its own cyber school program as an alternative for those students who choose to go that route.
Mary Anne Jackson, school board vice-president blamed state lawmakers for creating this system where outside cyber schools can charge four times as an in-district cyber school while providing essentially the same education.
Otto said there are some legitimate reasons for students to choose cyber-school. For example, when he worked in another district there was a student who was accepted into a dance school in New York City and she wanted to attend cyber-school to get her diploma.
In other business:
- Otto announced that the PIAA has selected the football stadium as the location for its AAA semi-final playoff football game between Cathedral Prep in Erie and Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg.
Both schools are traditional football powers and currently, Cathedral Prep is ranked No. 1 and Bishop McDevitt No. 2 in the state by the Harrisburg Patriot News.
The winner moves onto the state championship game held in Hershey.
Otto said they weren't expecting to host any playoff games this year because of the high school building project.
However, he said word has gotten out on how nice the district's new facilities are and the school is roughly halfway between Erie and Harrisburg.
Otto said the new fencing that was placed around the field providing extra security was another reason why the district was chosen to host the game.
For the game, the district will get $700 for rental of the field as well as all profits from concessions. The PIAA will pay all costs associated with the game including security and ticketing.
Glass said it should benefit the local economy because the game will likely bring in a lot of people from outside the area into town.
- the board held its reorganizational meeting and re-elected Glass as president and Jackson as vice-president and scheduled its 2013 meetings as follows: Jan. 21, 28, Feb. 18, 25; March 18, 25, April 15, 22; May 20; June 17,24, July 15; Aug. 19, 26; Sept. 16, 23, Oct. 21, 28, Nov. 18, 28 and Dec. 4.
The board approved the following personnel changes:
- Appointments: Sarah Crawford, substitute cafeteria worker and assistant; Alfred Hess, volunteer boys basketball coach; Kelly Kaskan, 7th/8th grade girls basketball coach; Jennifer Peacock, winter grade 9/middle school cheerleading coach; Robert Billotte, substitute middle school bus ramp supervisor; Mary Lannen, food service technician at Bradford Township Elementary; Todd Winters, volunteer boys basketball coach.
- Leaves: Mistie Flanagan, unpaid leave of absence from Nov. 20 through Jan. 2; Judy Kitchen, FMLA leave of absence from Nov. 19 for 60 days.
- Create one part-time special education personal care assistant at Centre Elementary.