School Borrowing Pending Board Majority Approval

Armstrong School District board directors agreed Thursday night during their open caucus session to formally decide Monday whether to borrow $10 million to renovate Shannock Valley Elementary, West Shamokin Junior/Senior High’s football field and build an athletic complex at Armstrong Junior/Senior High.

by Jonathan Weaver

Armstrong School District board directors will vote Monday night at their regular board meeting whether to borrow $10 million for school and stadium improvements.

District Finances and Operations Director Sam Kirk said money from the bonds would be spent on the recently approved Shannock Valley Elementary guaranteed energy savings project, plans for a new athletic complex at Armstrong Junior/Senior High and improvements to the West Shamokin Junior/Senior High stadium.

Piper-Jaffray Senior Vice President Randy Frederick explained the new financing would “wrap around” current financing and would actually reduce the annual budgetary impact.

Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP Partner Chris Brewer said bond counselors were pondering financing for the entire project, but advised otherwise. He said officials would “go to market” in the next few weeks.

“We had initially as a working group thought that you’d be able to finance the entire project or a large chunk of it, and yet Piper-Jaffray did some studies looking at the benefit in this market of low-interest rates available when you stay under that $10 million annual threshold,” Brewer said. “Bringing banks in to the marketplace and increasing the demand for your bonds seems to be the right way to go, and that’s the decision we all came to.”

Piper-Jaffray Senior Vice President Randy Frederick explained the new financing would “wrap around” current financing.

“By using a wrap-around debt service, what you’re doing is actually doing a new issue and tailoring it around your existing debt – pushing some of the principal out to later years,” Frederick said. “As some of your older debt services are paying off, those budgeted dollars are then allocated to the new money.

“That actually reduces the annual budgetary impact.”

Kirk explained the new financial borrowing would increase the budget by about $400,000, or less than one mill of property taxes.

“Between the bond issue and the cash that we have – which is between $5.5-6 million -, all those funds should take care of those three projects,” Kirk said.

Frederick hoped the district bond rating – which should be available about 9AM Monday morning – would be similar to last year, if not better. School district officials can then purchase insurance to reduce the bond interest rate.

“(Armstrong School District) is healthy enough that the insurance fee is lower. It should benefit the school district,” Frederick said.

About $9.3 million will begin to be spent on renovations to Shannock Valley Elementary in Rural Valley in the middle of April during Spring Break.

“We did have a first meeting on that this past week, which just talked about moving things out of the classrooms and what the timeline’s going to be for that project,” Kirk said.

Renovations will continue after the end of this school year and is not expected to affect the start of school in August.

Kirk added that a committee, made up of more than 20 people including district officials, parents and students, have met again and architects are preparing to unveil their ideas during a public meeting April 3 at Armstrong Junior/Senior High in Manor Township.

Officials hope to play football in the stadium this September

Renovations to Jack E. Boyer Field on the campus of West Shamokin Junior/Senior High would include turf changes and the construction of a new fieldhouse.