Bristol Township School District Superintendent Samuel Lee said the school system has no plans to place a $152.6 million purposed plan to build three new elementary schools and renovate two middle schools up for referendum.
Lee’s statement was met with resistance from some residents who spoke at the nearly 3-hour-long public meeting on the plan Tuesday night.
Fairless Hills resident Brian Lachewitz asked for the item to be put on the ballot for taxpayers in the cash-strapped school district to decide. He cited the hefty price tag as the reason for his request.
“We can’t afford Beverly Hills schools in Bristol Township,” Lachewitz said. His statement was met with applause and cheers from the crowd of about 300 gathered in the Benjamin Franklin School auditorium.
The meeting was filled with resident concerns over transportation, security and other topics.
District officials did not believe transportation costs would rise because of the new schools. They also said the new schools would be built with security features greater than those currently present in the elementary buildings.
Carol Becker and other residents told the board that they fear the new school would raise their taxes. District officials said no tax increases would be needed to pay for the school due to several factors. Some of those factors include a low debt service, favorable interest rates, state reimbursement, reduced building costs and “staffing efficiencies.”
Lee said staff reductions would be hopefully gained through attrition and come from all parts of the district, not just teachers. The reductions could save the district $3.5 million.
Lee began the meeting with a slideshow showing the “aging and challenged facilities that make up the district’s 9 elementary schools that could be torn down and consolidated into three new 1300-student buildings.
The superintendent noted all the school had boilers which are between 30 and 80 years old. He added that many of the schools’ electrical systems can not handle the increased demand from computer systems, growing population and inefficiencies.
While the plan states that all the current elementary schools are to be closed, new $37 million buildings would be built at the James Buchanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mary Devine elementary school sites. An opening date is being projected for September 2015.
The district would close Franklin D. Roosevelt Middle School under the plan. Neil A. Armstrong Middle School and the former Benjamin Franklin School would be renovated to for students. The middle school could open for students in 2016.
The district administrative offices would merge under one roof with the operations sector at a renovated Clara Barton Elementary School. The work would cost nearly $4 million.
Renovations for Harry S. Truman High School are not expected in the next few years, officials said. The move was done to keep the tax rate from increasing due to the project, officials said.
Along with the new buildings, the district would migrate from a K-6 program to a K-5.
Lee said the district does not have a firm plan on what to do with the elementary school buildings. He indicated that selling the buildings or taking down the structure and making the land open space were two possibilities.
What are your thoughts on the plan? Tell us.
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