Friday, February 17, 2017

Mystery Donor May Cover Stadium Lights Shortfall

Mercury File Photo

Pottstown School Board member Polly Weand says an anonymous donor may help cover the $86,000 gap between what has been raised and the cost of new stadium lights at Pottstown High School's Grigg Memorial Field.

An anonymous donor who gave $10,000 to the campaign to raise enough money to replace the lights at Pottstown High School's Grigg Memorial Field has now offered to loan the effort up to $86,000 to ensure the lights get erected this summer in time for the fall football season.

The news was delivered Thursday night by school board member Polly Weand, who has headed up the long and difficult fundraising effort.

She said the same anonymous donor who provided $10,000 on Thanksgiving Day, has made this new offer because "he is determined these lights are going to get put up."

The latest estimate, also delivered Thursday night to the board's facilities committee, is $302,674, and the fundraising effort is about $86,000 short of what it needs to pay for the job.

The Iowa-based company that offered the estimate is willing to finance the remainder for a five- or seven-year period, at an interest rate between 3.95 percent and 4.45 percent.

But Weand said she would rather avoid interest payments and asked School Board Solicitor Stephen Kalis about the legality of a loan.

Kalis said if the agreement is between the generous donor and the fundraising campaign, the school district need not be involved at all.

But if the district will be expected to make up any shortfalls in payments should the fundraising effort be unable to raise the remaining $86,000, Kalis he would need more information.

Weand reiterated that she does not want to see any tax money used for the effort, a position set by the school board three years ago when the existing poles were cut and the lights removed.

In other athletic facility related matters, the facilities committee was informed that the bid for repairing the athletic fields along North Franklin Street, used for soccer and field hockey, came in less than expected.

The district was expecting a bill around $325,000, but the estimated cost is $276,762. The money to pay for the project will come from the proceeds of a recent bond re-financing, said Business Manager Linda Adams, adding no cost to the budget.

$2 Million budget shortfall

Also of interest to taxpayer, but not on the agenda, is the fact that current figures estimate that the $59.5 million 2017-18 school budget is about $1.9 million out of balance.

The matter was brought to the table by board member Thomas Hylton, who said the latest figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Education -- which are already several years old -- have pushed Pottstown from the 13th highest local tax effort, to the 3rd.

"I will not vote for any tax increase," said Hylton. For the past two years, the district has not raised taxes. "We are strangling the life out of this town and we had better start planning now how we are going to cut spending."

Adams said if the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania General Assembly were to adopt the budget proposed  by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, which is unlikely, Pottstown would receive an additional $850,000 from the state.

"That's the best case scenario," observed Hylton, who also noted that still leaves the district with a budget gap of about $1 million.

"We are going to have to get more frugal," said board member Katina Bearden.

Middle School discipline issues

Acting Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez also informed the board that a temporary personnel adjustment he has made seems to be reducing the persistent discipline issues experienced at Pottstown Middle School and received general assent to continue the situation on a month-to-month basis as needed.

In the meantime, folks with time on their hands can peruse the Tweets from the multi-committee meeting night below.

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