Tube City Almanac

February 25, 2012

MASD Officials Scrap $30 Million School Project

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After lobbying fellow officials for months with concerns over the district's ability to afford a third new elementary school, McKeesport Area School Director Thomas Maglicco convinced a majority present at Wednesday night's school board meeting to cancel the controversial $30 million project.

"I think we should cut our ties with this part of the process and move forward," he said.

Maglicco's motion to abandon plans for the proposed school passed with a quorum majority vote of 4-3. School directors Mary Jane Keller, Terri Kisan, and Board President Patricia Maksin sided with Maglicco, while Steven Kondrosky, Joseph Lopretto and Christopher Halaszynski voted against the motion. School directors Trisha Gadson and Mark Holtzman were absent.

Although Maglicco has consistently challenged the district's plan to build the new high tech school at finance committee and board meetings over the past year, his motion and the resulting vote came as a surprise to Superintendent Timothy Gabauer, who was unable to elaborate on how officials plan to proceed after the meeting.

Until Wednesday's meeting, the board was attempting to move forward with the brand new elementary/intermediate school, despite Maglicco's financial concerns, opposition from district residents and McKeesport City Council's denial of the site plan back in September.

The district was pursuing acquisition of 26 acres of the former Buck estate owned by Robert DeTorre located along Henderson Road through the state's eminent domain process. Officials had also filed a Plan Con D application with the state Department of Education seeking partial reimbursement for the project's construction costs, but had not yet received a response as of Wednesday's meeting.

. . .

The proposed elementary/intermediate school was the final project in a three-stage development throughout the school district, including the expansion of Francis McClure Intermediate and the construction of a new elementary school at the site of the demolished Cornell Intermediate.

The district planned to close White Oak, Centennial and George Washington elementary schools after the three-school development was complete, but might have to reconsider without the new elementary/intermediate school in the picture.

The work at Francis McClure is almost finished but the Cornell project remains in limbo while the district awaits the state Department of Environment Protection's approval of an erosion and sedimentation plan for the site, which was filed last May.

. . .

Over the past several months, Maglicco has expressed alarm over the district's financial situation and questioned its ability to afford an over $30 million construction project after committing to the McClure and Cornell projects, the costs of which have already exceeded the original estimate for all three school combined.

At the school board's January meeting, Maglicco estimated the total cost of all three projects at $77 million to 79 million.

Maglicco explained that his concerns escalated after learning that the district must incorporate $2.8 million in increased expenditures and budget cuts into its 2012-2013 budget in part due to Governor Tom Corbett's proposed state budget.

Along with a $500,000 pension obligation increase and a $500,000 charter school payment, MASD also faces a $1.4 million debt service increase for school construction financing and a loss of $400,000 in Basic Education/Accountability Block Grants.

"This is going to be a challenging budget year," said Maglicco, urging the board to keep a sharp eye on spending.

. . .

Following the board meeting, Maglicco suggested several alternate improvements that the district could consider in place of the abandoned elementary/intermediate school, including renovating White Oak Elementary and expanding Founder's Hall.

The latter option would consolidate the district from seven buildings to only four: Francis McClure Intermediate, Cornell Intermediate, Founder's Hall and McKeesport Area High School.

Maglicco also said that additional upgrades are needed throughout the district, including various roof repairs and football stadium improvements that should be taken into consideration. Halaszynski reported that the Athletic Committee is currently looking into replacing the stadium's scoreboard.

"There are other needs that will happen in the next five years," Maglicco pointed out.

For now, it appears that the needs do not include a new elementary/intermediate school in the district.

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Feedback on “MASD Officials Scrap $30 Million School Project”

How can we possibly consider “improvements to the football stadium and new scoreboard”?

The public was all up in arms about this new school being built.

People did not want to spend the money.

Ok, fine.

But that should not mean that this is some sort of windfall to be used up on other stuff.

Fix the roofs, keep the buildings in good repair and put the rest away for a rainy day.

If the current schools are “good enough” for the kids of our district, then so is the current scoreboard and stadium. There is nothing wrong with the stadium or scoreboard…...they do what they need to do.

If students can make due with the buildings we have then the jocks can make due with the stadium facilities we have.

If the jocks (school age and adults) who want the stadium renovations want to hold fundraisers to buy those improvements, go for it. But keep your hands out of my pockets.

Football stadiums and scoreboards are a distant last place when it comes to what I want to see my school taxes used on.
Shadango - February 27, 2012

One other comment about the land being acquired by “imminent domain” as mentioned in the article if the new school were to still be pursued

I find it ridiculous that any city can get a hair up its you-know-where and just TAKE someone’s property.

We have a hard time attracting and keeping good tax paying residents in McKeesport as it is, and you want to steal someone’s land under the guise of “the greater good” ?

PLEASE! That is theft, pure and simple.

We saw a similar theft in the Wallay and Joe’s case.

There are plenty of abandoned properties in McKeesport that need taken over and yet they go on being abandoned.

Here is a thought — need a central, open location for a new school complex?

How about tearing down Crawford Village? Force those who live for free there back to work and to live responsibly.

If its OK to steal a tax-paying resident’s property from him (assuming he was paying taxes) then we should be able to boot people who are just living off the government teat out of property that belongs to the taxpayer already.

Wouldn’t be a popular move, but it would force those who need a kick in the pants to sink or swim.
Shadango - February 27, 2012

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