Quaker Valley borrows $10 million more for high school project

Friday, November 22, 2019 | 10:36 AM

Quaker Valley School Board members voted to borrow $10 million to fund the initial phases of design and site development for a new high school.

Board members unanimously approved the bond issuance on Nov. 19.

Scott Antoline, director of finance and operations, said the action took place at the end of the calendar year so the district could “take advantage of historically low interest rates” and “stay within the annual limits for a bank-qualified bond deal that offers better rates and shorter call features for future refinancings.”

The borrowing will take place as Quaker Valley works to purchase a final parcel of property off Camp Meeting Road for the high school project.

The district already has purchased more than 150 acres of land where plans are moving forward to build a new school. In 2017, the district borrowed roughly $10 million for the purchase of land.

District leaders maintain a new high school is needed to replace the nearly 100-year-old building students are learning in today.

They cite issues at the current school with traffic congestion and insufficient parking and have said the building is not designed for today’s educational needs, with creative spaces for collaboration.

Critical systems in the building also are past their service lives.

Some residents have questioned the tax implications a new school will bring to the community and whether they will get a say in the project — bringing it to a public vote via referendum.

District leaders say it’s too early to determine the exact impact on taxpayers or whether there will be a referendum.

However, they anticipate “multiple strategic borrowings and refinancing opportunities over the next several years that will include phasing in millage over multiple years to ease the impact to the taxpayer and fund the project within the Act 1 limits,” Antoline said.

District leaders in August hired a project management team to craft proposals for design and construction work.

“At this time, we are working collaboratively with John Thomas of Thomas and Williamson to develop the program for the project,” Superintendent Tammy Andreyko said in an email, noting that the district is in the process of securing the final piece of land.

“These efforts are indeed a work in progress and will move toward cost estimates and requests for proposal in the future. It is very early in the process to determine the impact on taxpayers, but endeavoring to be fiscally responsible throughout the process is paramount for the administration and the school board,” she wrote.

District leaders say they are still working to determine a total cost and timeline for the project.

In September, the district brought in PFM Financial Advisors, which has been working with the district’s finance team “to evaluate our current debt for refunding opportunities and restructuring opportunities while analyzing market conditions to recommend the appropriate size, timing and structure of future borrowings,” Antoline said.

Quaker Valley currently has about $58.2 million in outstanding debt from past projects. The district pays about $6.55 million a year on that debt.

The district has about $7.7 million in its general fund balance and $4.4 million in its capital projects reserve fund balance.

The latest borrowing likely will add about $368,000 per year to the annual debt service payments and will be paid back over a maximum maturity of 25 years.

Antoline said this increase was planned for and included in the current year’s general and capital project fund budgets.

“As the program manager completes the anticipated budget and timeline, we will develop a specific long-term financial plan to ensure the most appropriate and cost-effective funding of the new high school,” Antoline said.

For those looking to stay informed on the project, Andreyko pointed to the district website, which provides current information on the project, she wrote. The district’s administrative team also has been meeting with teachers, parent organizations, municipal leaders, Realtors and others to discuss the project, she said.

“We will continue to engage with the community in the new year as many of these new developments begin to take shape,” Andreyko wrote.