Friday, March 13, 2009

New Vo-Tech Plan Seeks Federal Stimulus Money

for a vocational technical school and career center construction on a local college campus and only about $10 million - a drop in the bucket, really. But, there's always that objection, standing objection, should the federal government be spending any stimulus money on education or anything else as the federal government has no money. It's in a deficit situation, it can't fund its own operations and programs with the tax receipts it gets currently, it's had to borrow and print...

And our children's children's children, well you get it, will be paying off the debt.

Plus, what role does the federal govt have constitutionally in local education concerns? None.

Net the Truth Online

Not all school boards interested in new vo-tech
By Angie Oravec, Herald-Standard
Updated 03/09/2009
This is the first part in a three-part series examining the positions of local officials on building a new Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School.Three out of four school boards asked to help fund the construction of a new Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School have not agreed to do so and there is no word on whether they will approve a resolution binding them to finance the project.

The Albert Gallatin, Brownsville and Uniontown area school boards have been asked to pay anywhere from $2.9 million to $10.9 million to fund the million project expected to cost $28 million.

Albert Gallatin has shown resistance to funding the project and relocating the current vo-tech school in Georges Township and the Albert Gallatin Area School District.

Superintendent Walter Vicinelly said he notified the vo-tech school in February that the school board was not in favor of relocating the school to the proposed site in North Union Township.

Vicinelly said he thinks the concept is "excellent," but the board expressed concern regarding additional expenses, particularly the cost to transport students to the new site.

"I think the general concept of having a vo-tech school and career center (in the same building) is an excellent concept, but the board expressed concern about additional expenses, transportation especially," Vicinelly said.

Vicinelly said he acknowledges that the existing school will need either renovated or replaced with a new building, but "a lot of uncertainties" have prevented the board from wholeheartedly agreeing to the project.

The indefinite amount of grant money the state and federal governments would provide for the project and debt service the district would incur are two uncertainties, he said.

"I'm hoping we are able to take advantage of stimulus funding and seek grants, but to not know the specifics of that" makes relocating the school difficult to agree to, he said.

He suggested exploring in-depth if money would be available to build a similar project at the current site.

Dr. Charles Machesky, superintendent of the Uniontown Area School District, pushed for officials to publicly present reimbursement figures, which could give board members a better idea of the debt districts actually will incur if they finance the project.

He said the Uniontown Area School Board currently is not comfortable with adopting a resolution.

Reimbursement figures, which he said he has been told can be as high as 60 percent for a career and technical school project, would cause districts to incur less debt and may increase his board's level of comfort, he said.

Machesky also said that his school district would receive as much as 38 percent of the profit from the sell of the current building and property, which also could be used to reduce the district's debt incurred through financing the project.

Dr. Philip Savini, superintendent of the Brownsville Area School District, said cost is a concern, especially with the board looking at funding an elementary school project.

"I believe in what Dr. Jeffreys is trying to do, but can we do it financially?" Savini asked. "You have to live within your means."

The Laurel Highlands School Board approved the move in February, being the first to do so of the four districts that send students to the school. Dr. Gary Brain, superintendent of the school district, said the agreement is contingent upon a $10 million grant being received for the project.

Support sought for vo-tech project Monday 03/09/09 By Angie Oravec

Dr. Ronald Sheba, education and workforce development manager for Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, said the construction of a new Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School hinges on school boards financially committing to the project.

He said legislators want to see that local commitment and, if they don’t, he fears Fayette County will lose out on $10 million in stimulus funding.

“(Federal and state officials) have asked, ‘Do you have the board commitment?’” Sheba said. “We need (the boards’) support for it to become a competitive project.”

Officials proposed the $28 million project to be built at University Technology Park along Route 119 in North Union Township .

The 115,900-square-foot facility would house a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) center, post-secondary component and business incubator as well as the vo-tech programs.

“I think this should be as high a priority (for school districts) as anything else that needs done,” said Sheba .

“These students deserve to have good, quality education in an up-to-date, modern building.”

The park is one of several in the county that offer tax-free business sites through the state’s Keystone Opportunity Zone program. Businesses enrolled in the program do not have to pay local property taxes nor the majority of state corporate taxes.

It is home to Advanced Acoustic Concepts, ProLogic, the Uniontown state police barracks, United First Responders, Century Engineering, and Chief Oil & Gas.

The Fayette Industrial Fund owns the park. Fay-Penn falls under the auspices of this board.

Michael Krajovic, Fay-Penn president, said he believes the technology park offers “the best location” for the school since it would be centrally located in the county and close to businesses and colleges. The location is currently the subject of debate.

“This is model project,” said Krajovic. “The return on the investment will far outweigh the cost.”

Officials are hoping for a $10 million grant through Pennsylvania share of stimulus funding to help fund the project.

Sheba said if a $10 million grant is received, the project would total $18 million to split among four districts. Anticipated state reimbursement, usually received after a project is completed, would lower the cost to be shared among districts to $12 million, he said.

That price tag includes the cost of land, which Fay-Penn has agreed to sell for $20,000 per acre, $25,000 less than the original sell price, according to Krajovic.

Krajovic said the school should attract additional businesses into the park, which, in turn, would help Fay-Penn pay a 15-year mortgage on the property.

To develop the park, Fay-Penn used grants from the Eberly Foundation and money accumulated from other business parks, but also borrowed $1.75 million through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, according to Krajovic...

Reviews mixed for vo-tech project
By Angie Oravec, Herald-Standard
Updated 03/11/2009 12:06:06 AM EDT
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This is the final installment in a three-part series examining the positions of local officials on building a new Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School.Two township supervisors are at odds on the construction of a new Fayette County Vocational-Technical School at a county business park.

North Union Township Supervisor Thomas Kumor said University Technology Park hasn't blossomed like the supervisors expected it to, but if a school is built in the park, "I believe that will be a positive, not a negative thing."

Kumor said he sees Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus, as the "crown jewel" of the township and also is delighted to have Laurel Highlands High School located within township bounds.

"We would be happy with (the new school)," Kumor said.

Mike Bartock, supervisor for Georges Township, where the current vo-tech school is located, is opposed to the school relocating...

...Investment banker John McShane with the firm Boenning & Scattergood Inc., last week presented new estimates on the amount each of the four districts would be asked to contribute to fund the $28 million project.

The estimates take into account the project receiving a $10 million grant and the state Department of Education reimbursing the district at least 50 percent of the cost.

Under that scenario, the Albert Gallatin Area School District would pay $155,273 annually on a 30-year loan; Brownsville, $77,558; Laurel Highlands, $294,650; and Uniontown, $246,072.

Those figures are lower than estimates released initially since the figures did not include reimbursement.

Initial estimates saw Albert Gallatin annually contributing $199,210 for 30 years; Brownsville, $98,782; Laurel Highlands, $369,235; and Uniontown, $297,658.

Officials said the latter numbers could result in a property tax increase ranging from a .35- to .32-mill tax increase per every $10,000 in assessed property value to cover the cost of debt.

If that tax impact holds true, a taxpayer in the Albert Gallatin Area School District, for example, where taxes stand at 11.119 mills, would pay approximately $13 more if taxes were increased .32 of a mill.

The tax impact for other districts was estimated as follows: a .32 millage increase, or $3.21 per every $10,000 in assessed property value, in the Brownsville Area School District; a .359-mill increase, or $3.59 per every $10,000 in assessed property value, in the Laurel Highlands School District; and a .349 millage increase, or $3.49 per every $10,000 in assessed property value, in the Uniontown Area School District.

Supporters of the project pointed out that the districts funding a renovation to the current 98,615-square-foot facility would cost more than building a new facility with a $10 million or $5 million grant.

Estimates on the cost to renovate the current facility are: Albert Gallatin, a $280,178 annual debt service payment over 30 years, possibly resulting in a .4623 millage increase, or $4.62 per every $10,000 in assessed property value.

Brownsville Area would pay $137,730 annually over 30 years, possibly resulting in a .448 millage increase, or $4.48 per every $10,000 in assessed property value.

Laurel Highlands would incur an annual payment of $503,714 that could result in a .491-mill increase, or an additional $4.91 per every $10,000 of assessed property value.

Uniontown Area would face a $408,269 annual debt service payment for 30 years that could result in a .480-mill increase, or $4.80 per every $10,000 in assessed property value.

Dr. Edward Jeffreys, executive director of the Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School, said the school districts' respective business office provided the figures...

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