The Mechanicsburg Area School Board unanimously finalized a 2017-18 district budget that will increase real estate taxes by 2 percent while also authorizing architects to continue with designs of renovating Elmwood Elementary School into a district center for grades 4 and 5 by 2018-19.
Next year’s $69.1 million district spending plan will increase the district’s real estate tax levy from its current rate of 12.8 mills to 13.0560 mills. A property owner assessed at $175,000 — roughly the median value — would pay $2,285 annually in real estate taxes next year.
Administrators also are proposing to use $1.8 million from the district’s fund balance to balance next year’s spending plan, a planned move intended to offset the rising costs of the district’s mandated contribution to the state Public School Employee Retirement System, technology and general operations. The district’s mandated PSERS requirement has increased steadily over the past several years from 5.64 percent in 2010-11 to a projected 32.57 percent for 2017-18. Employee medical insurance costs are expected to increase by $1.14 million for next year — a jump of 16 percent — and a $300,000 increase in contracted costs to cybercharter schools also is budgeted.
The district also is proposing to add several staff positions for next year due to expanding enrollment. These include an additional assistant principal at the high school, six elementary teachers, a part-time middle school art teacher, an elementary ELL teacher, and a special education teacher and school counselor at Broad Street Elementary School. Other proposed additions include a part-time administrative assistant at Upper Allen Elementary School, a year-round administrative assistant at the Kindergarten Academy at Filbert Street, and one instructional assistant each at Northside Elementary School and the middle school.
Also on Tuesday, the school board unanimously authorized district architects Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates to continue designs and a site plan for renovating Elmwood Elementary School into a district center for grades four and five. The plan involves moving the district’s offices that are located on Elmwood’s second floor to another location. In the meantime, Elmwood’s second floor would be converted back to classrooms.
At a district finance committee meeting held earlier on Tuesday, principal architects Jeff Straub and Tracy Rohrbaugh presented preliminary plans for converting the Elmwood building. Superintendent Mark Leidy said converting the school’s second floor into 15 classrooms while relocating the district offices are a “priority.”
Other proposed renovations to the Elmwood site include relocating the parent dropoff area to the rear of the building and making the front area a dropoff area for buses only. A new drive loop for parents dropping off students is proposed to run from a Shepardstown Road entrance behind the school to a rear building entrance. A new playfield and new hard and soft play areas also are proposed for grounds behind the school.
“One of our primary goals was to alleviate (student) dropoff congestion. I think (the plan) will make a huge difference out front here at Elmwood,” Leidy said.
In a related matter, the school board unanimously authorized district officials to enter into a commercial lease for additional district office space while Elmwood is being renovated. Although officials are considering permanently relocating the offices at Shepardstown Elementary School or on a proposed second floor on the Kindergarten Academy at Filbert Street, work at those locations is not proposed to happen until later.
Assistant Superintendent Alan Vandrew said officials are in lease negotiations for two sites under consideration as temporary district offices. Officials expect to bring proposals to the board in August, he said.
Vandrew also presented the school board on Tuesday with new figures from a demographic/enrollment study recently by DecisionInsite.
The study predicts that Mechanicsburg’s enrollment will jump to 5,376 students by 2026, or roughly 1,300 more students than today’s figures.
The firm used residential research as its basis, contacting local municipalities for past and future population figures.
Due to an abundance of ongoing activity, district officials have scheduled a finance/facilities committee meeting for Aug. 8 with plans to discuss project financing, seeking board authorization to bid for work at Elwood Elementary and the Kindergarten Academy.