EDUCATION Sharon school board buys building to expand campus

The district hopes to save money by refinancing two building renovation loans.
SHARON, Pa. -- The school district is expanding the campus around its elementary and high school complex on East State Street.
The board voted Monday to buy a vacant brick building at East State Street and Forker Boulevard for $200,000 from National City Bank.
The money will come from the district's capital-reserve account, said Atty. Mark Longietti, school board solicitor.
Superintendent Donna DeBonis said the district needs the space to house its alternative-education program for pupils with behavioral and other problems. That program is now run in rented space at the F.H. Buhl Club several blocks from the high school.
DeBonis said the building will also provide storage space for the maintenance department.
Longietti said the purchase will enable Sharon to expand the scope of the campus surrounding the Sharon High/Middle School and Case Avenue Elementary School.
The district will now own all of the frontage along Forker Boulevard from State Street to Pearl Street.
On one hand, the board is spending money, but on the other, it is looking to save about $441,000 in long-term interest costs by refinancing two bond issues.
James Wolf, district business manager, said Sharon borrowed $8.36 million in a 1998 bond issue and $8.83 million more in a 1999 bond issue to finance building renovations.
The two bonds paid for about $13.5 million in expansions and improvements at the West Hill and Musser elementary schools and for part of the renovation work now being done at the high/middle school.
The money was borrowed at an average annual interest rate between 4.8 and 5 percent, but Wolf told the school board that the bond market has dropped to the point where the debts can be jointly refinanced at an annual interest rate of just over 4 percent.
The result will be a savings estimated at $440,630 over the next 17 years, the equivalent of about one-third of a mill of property taxes (nearly $30,000) annually.
Both bond issues were for 20 years; the new bond issue would not extend the period of debt but would still expire in 2019.
The board has scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 to vote on the refinancing plan.
In other business, the board voted to install a 48-camera video surveillance system at the high/middle school at a cost of $177,148.
Blackhawk Neff of New Castle was the low bidder on the contract and got the job.

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