Crestwood board intends to borrow $4.5M to renovate elementary schools

By Tom Huntington - For Times Leader


    WRIGHT TWP. — The Crestwood School Board announced an intent Thursday night to issue $4.5 million in bonds to finance capital improvements and prospective renovations to the district’s elementary schools.

    A resolution indicates the board intends to issue a series of general obligation bonds to pay for the projects.

    In conjunction with the decision, board President William Jones said the board is awaiting a report on “The Hunt Study,” which commenced in November 2016 and encompasses a thorough inspection of Crestwood’s buildings by structural experts from Hunt Engineers, of Towanda.

    “We’re waiting on the report of the inspection,” Jones said, “to make sure we know where all the money is needed.”

    Jones made this comment following questioning by Mountain Top resident Rich Schutt, who contended that since the board is proposing in its 2017-18 preliminary budget to raise taxes by 3.3 percent, school directors are placing an expensive burden on taxpayers.

    Along with the proposed bond issue, Jones acknowledged that the district still has a capital fund of $3.8 million which was financed through a previous bond issue, a situation which caused Mountain Top resident Kelly VandenBerg to protest, “I have to question the fiscal sense of taking out another bond on top of an existing bond.”

    In rebuttal, Jones said the school board is acting responsibly to meet the fiscal needs of the district and at the same time take advantage of attractive interest rates currently available. In addition, Jones said, “We’re working hard to develop a balanced budget.”

    The resolution as passed stipulates hiring the firm Stevens & Lee to serve as bond counsel.

    Albert Melone, district financial adviser, estimated the cost of the bond issue may be between $300,000 and $325,000.

    In briefly discussing the budget, which currently is an estimated $38.5 million and is $2 million in deficit, Jones said increasing employee salaries and current expenses for the upkeep of the school buildings is driving up taxation, not the need to support existing debt. In response to VandenBerg, Jones said the board has been encouraging teacher retirements in order to restrain spending on salaries.

    In conjunction with his comments, the board voted to accept the intent to retire of six teachers effective on the last day of the 2016-17 term, including: Charles Herring, Joseph Chimola, Carolyn Boone, Michael Stanek, Denise Keiser and Lorrae Orlove.

    Additional discussion centered on:

    • Comment by Superintendent Joseph Gorham that because of snow days, the 2016-17 term may have to be extended, with commencement possibly occurring on the alternate date of June 6 rather than June 2.

    • Action by the board to hire coaches for spring sports, as well as fall sports, including Greg Myers as head coach of football; Mike Williams as head coach of girls volleyball; Rob Moulton as head coach of cross-country and boys track and field, and Ryan Arcangeli as girls track coach.

    • Approving a proposed tax settlement involving the Luzerne County Board of Assessment and TFP Limited, owner of the Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club, pending a review by solicitor John Dean.

    By Tom Huntington

    For Times Leader

    Reach the Times LEader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.

    Reach the Times LEader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.

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