Millcreek school board rejects technical school renovations


A planned $ 34.4 million renovation of the Erie County Technical School is unlikely to happen.

The Millcreek Township School Board rejected a resolution to proceed with the renovations by 5-4 on Tuesday, for the second time in a week. A similar resolution failed with an identical 5-4 vote on September 13.

The 11 school districts that send students to the school must approve the project for work to continue. All but Millcreek unanimously approved the project.

Bids submitted for work expire Tuesday.

This week’s resolution would have committed the Millcreek Township School District to pay 36% of the cost of the renovations, or more than $ 12.1 million. School of Technology capital projects are funded based on assessed property values ​​in each participating school district. The Millcreek property value is 36% of the total property value in the 11 participating school districts.

The latest resolution would have included the condition that this would be the last time Millcreek would fund any capital improvements to the technical school under the current funding formula.

The resolution fell through with school board president Gary Winschel and principals Jason Dean, Michael Lindner, Shirley Winschel and Christopher Busko voting against.

Future Millcreek school boards would not be required to comply with the conditional clause, opponents said.

Janine McClintic, Lisa Cappabianca, Rick Lansberry and John DiPlacido voted for the resolution.

Last week’s motion failed with an identical vote. This resolution was to fund the project on the basis of the current formula only if all districts agreed to base funding for future improvements on listings rather than property values.

School districts have not agreed to change the capital funding formula.

Earlier this year:Millcreek school board rejects permission to renovate tech school

Difference of opinion on funding

Basing funding on enrollment, or actual costs per student, would be fairer, Millcreek principals said. Millcreek has 126 students in tech school this year, or about 17% of the school’s enrollment, and on an enrollment-based formula he would pay 17% of future renovation costs.

“I would support this project if the funding formula changed after this project. Funding formula is my problem. We have to pay double our participation,” Dean said. “We’re paying double our participation. I don’t think it’s fair that we pay $ 12.1 million when (based on attendance) it would be $ 6 million.

“We depend heavily on our local taxes. We can’t just subsidize other districts,” Dean said.

Because the Millcreek Township School District is considered by the state to be a wealthy district based on assessed property value, it receives a lower percentage of state funding.

Each district’s share of the running costs of technical schools is currently based on the number of enrollments. Other local school districts argue that it is fairer to base funding for capital projects on property values.

“The formula is based on the ability of each district to collect tax revenue. It is based on the ability to pay of each district,” Iroquois Superintendent Shane Murray said in February.

Departmental schools push back:As Millcreek insists on changing funding for tech schools

Millcreek has far more residential, commercial, and industrial properties than any other school district sending students to technical school. And he has more taxpayers to shoulder the cost, Murray said.

Spending $ 12.1 million on the tech school renovation would force Millcreek to raise taxes by about 1%, Gary Winschel said.

“That’s one-third of our index,” or the limit that the district can levy taxes without special state permission. “And we run into that every year with normal costs,” Winschel said.

Erie County Technical School principals have approved a resolution that could help ease some of the financial burden on all participating school districts for future school improvements, the committee chair said on Tuesday. School Joint Operator, Sam Ring, to Millcreek School Principals.

Renovations of the technical school:Here’s what each participating district could pay

The school plans to put money aside in a reserve fund to pay for the upgrades, Ring said.

“We have a way forward that will hopefully not repeat the mistakes of the past,” Ring said. “We’re changing the way we fund projects. We’re giving you exactly what you want at this point, if in a little different format.”

But the school must first have modern mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and other upgrades, otherwise the reserve fund would pay for repairs rather than future upgrades, Ring said.

There is no guarantee that the fund would significantly reduce the amount local districts would pay in the future, Millcreek school principals said.

Could renovation plans be lightened?

Administrators also questioned whether the $ 34.4 million project could be scaled down or done cheaply to bring the school up to modern safety and education standards.

“We hear you talking about the need for the project (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), as we have constructed six buildings in our MEP project at a lower cost than this project,” said Lindner, chairman of the finance committee of the Millcreek School Board. “The cost per square foot is very different. This is one of the glaring concerns of our finance committee, why this project is so far removed from the projects we have done.”

Prices have increased since the Millcreek projects were tendered. And because the tech school hasn’t seen significant improvements since it was built in 1968, it’s driving up costs now, renovation project architect Chris Coughlin told principals in Millcreek on Tuesday.

“Keep in mind that this building has not been affected. A lot of your buildings have been affected at least once during major renovations,” Coughlin said. “This is the main difference. Your buildings have undergone repair work (and other work). This building doesn’t have one. “

Millcreek principals who voted for the renovation project have warned that the failure of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems at Summit Township School could cost local school districts more if it fails.

A pipe that corroded at school late last year is one example of what will continue to happen, McClintic said.

“This pipe and others are going to disappear, and when they leave we will have to fix them and dig the (soil) in an emergency. And we will take a break so that we can continue education (at school).” , McClintic said.

As part of the renovation plan, classes would have continued while the school was expanded and improved.

“They are giving us something to start working on to change that formula going forward,” McClintic said. “We need to do something for the students today to fix a building that is literally collapsing.”

Tech school officials had hoped to award bids for the renovations this week and begin work next month. The work was reportedly completed in phases, with the final phase due to be completed in spring 2023.

The renovations would have included new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; new doors and windows; toilets accessible to ADA; and reconfiguring classrooms and laboratories to meet current Pennsylvania Department of Education standards.

At the start of the year, school officials had hoped to cut the cost of the project by millions of dollars. But the increased cost of some materials that are less readily available during the pandemic has wiped out those savings, they said.

There are 722 students in the technical school this school year.

Contact Valérie Myers at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.


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