The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


January 24, 2014

Superintendent outlines need for new Lewisburg Area High School

LEWISBURG — The Lewisburg Area School District can finance a new high school and won’t run taxpayers into the ground in debt, Superintendent Mark DiRocco told a capacity school board crowd Thursday night in response to recent newspaper columns and reports asserting the district is moving too quickly with a project it cannot afford.

Saying he understands there is opposition to the new school, “You are entitled to your own opinions,” DiRocco said, “but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Borrowing capacity, school size and growth figures were among 17 points DiRocco answered during a half-hour presentation entitled “Misconceptions and Facts.”

DiRocco’s response followed issues presented by the Downtown Dragons, a grassroots group opposed to the new high school, in recent columns and reports in The Daily Item.

Among DiRocco’s points:

A capital reserve fund transfer of about $430,000 goes into a $2.7 million fund to spend on the school bond. “Floating bond scenarios doesn’t increase the budget,” DiRocco said. The budget contains the debt payment needed to finance the school.

n The district’s borrowing capacity is more than $62 million and will not “max out” on the new facility. In fact, the structure allows work on other district buildings to begin after the high school is built.

The district will pay close to $65 million on the $35 million project under financing, “but that is the way borrowing works,” he said. “It’s similar to home mortgages. You always pay more than what you actually borrow.”

DiRocco also cited a $20.5 million bond taken in 1996, which cost the district more than $35 million over 22 years.

The projected 180,000 square feet for the building is not excessive. It accounts for classrooms of about 800 square feet, the recommended size, as well as other needs, including a music suite large enough to accommodate the 140-member band and 150 member choral team. It also allows a PIAA-sanctioned size gym and wrestling room that will allow for competitions, and possible revenue for the school.

“We could take that out,” he said, “but we think it’s important.”  

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