The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

District offices location on fence


By Denise Larive, For 21st Century Media

Friday, March 14, 2014

The estimated costs to fit a square peg into a round hole -- move the Daniel Boone School District’s administrative and businesses offices to the High School, in Birdsboro -- are at least $80,000 in 2014 and thereafter $46,410 in annual security guard costs. Board member Andrew Basile said he does not want to waste $10,000 of money the district doesn’t have.

The board is still attempting to balance its 2014-15 budget with an estimated $1 million deficit.

Budget items still on the table are elementary encores, elementary band, basic skills, and four Middle School positions.

The board unanimously approved on Feb. 27 to add kindergarten, sports, and extracurriculars back into the 2014-15 budget.

Those programs total $900,000 and would be paid for with a millage increase and/or the use of fund balance money.

Per the board’s previous directive, Board member Brian Doty said the Facilities Committee studied the costs to relocate the offices from the Matthew Brooke Building -- and former Amity Primary Center (APC) -- to the current principal, vice principal, and guidance offices at the High School.

Doty said Buildings & Grounds Director Kenneth Smith had already moved in December all of the district office’s filing cabinets, old records, some furniture, and office supplies to the APC, per a vote by the previous board.

“Once we were given the approval in January, it was laid out,” said Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torchia, adding that items were moved to the designated areas and are already in individual classrooms.

New board member and newly appointed board president, Richard Martino, said at the board’s Dec. 2 annual reorganization, that the previous board’s hadn’t properly voted and that the vote was not legally valid. He said Smith should immediately stop moving items to APC and the move should be studied by the board.

Following a request by Board Vice President Connor Kurtz on Feb. 10 to “please” vote on the motion -- in order to allow the administration to develop a model (master plan) for the High School relocation -- the motion was approved by a 5-4 vote.

Board members have not disclosed a construction estimate for the High School relocation.

Estimated professional moving costs (versus using buildings and grounds employees) include carpet replacement ($20,000) and painting ($6,500) at Matthew Brooke, plus a professional moving company ($9,397).

Doty and Torchia said the district’s insurance company is requiring that the district hire a security guard if the offices are relocated to the High School.

The annual cost for a dedicated “district office” security guard is $46,410.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Patricia Sanker said that retrofitting construction at the High School could not occur until the summer, when students are not in the building.

Failure to move out of the Matthew Brooke Building by June 30 would incur monthly lease fees of $7,200.

“It makes no sense to move all the current High School office staff (principal, vice principal, guidance counselors, secretaries),” said Torchia in response to the still undecided location of the district offices in the High School.

“It only makes sense to put them (the relocation) in the existing empty space, that just needs to be cleaned -- it’s the most practical space for them to be,” said Torchia. “Don’t move the guidance suite -- it’s where it’s most appropriate for the students. They have more people coming into the principal, vice principal, and guidance than to the business office.”

Board member Carol Beitz replied to Torchia that the board wants the offices in the current High School office space.

“We don’t know that a security guard is needed,” said Martino.

“I’m not asking you to commit -- I’m telling you what the insurance company said -- that a security guard is needed at the business office,” said Torchia.

Basile said the issue needs to be decided quickly and asked why some board members insist on trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

“Statistically speaking, most administrative offices are located at high schools,” said Beitz. “It’s the loss of lease revenue potential at APC. I thought there was a discussion that middle schools and elementary schools are targeted more.”

Sanker said the issue would be tabled until the board can hear the opinion of the state police.

Doty said APC’s only revenue potential is with residential or educational uses (i.e. the current lease to River Rock Academy & Day Treatment, a charter school, or some new district elementary programs), but which won’t pay off the debt.

“There is potential for growth within River Rock -- the potential for them to lease more, but there is not a lot of demand for office space without retrofitting,” said Doty.

Basile said the board had this same discussion in 2013, which resulted in negotiations and lease to River Rock Academy.

“We can’t refinance the debt until 2033 -- a small piece in 2017,” said Basile, “We can’t pay off the debt.”