West Shore eyeing decade of small tax hikes to pay for modern school facilities

School board expected to vote May 11 on facilities plan

West Shore school directors are expected to vote May 11 on a facilities plan that could cost the district nearly $250 million and require small property-tax increases over a decade to cover debt payments.

The district’s feasibility committee, in conjunction with RLPS Architects in Manheim Township, on Thursday presented the final two options being considered under a school feasibility study that has been going on for more than two years.

The district is looking to build new schools to replace aging facilities that can no longer be renovated to handle growing enrollment in some parts of the district, while consolidating schools in areas where the student population is shrinking.

One of the options would introduce intermediate schools for grades 5 and 6, which would leave elementary schools with kindergarten through 4th grade students and the middle school with grades 7 and 8.

Under that plan, which could cost between $218.3 million and $246.7 million, the district would vacate Lower Allen Elementary School and New Cumberland Middle School. Allen Middle School would be demolished, along with the Fairview, Fishing Creek, Newberry and Rossmoyne elementary schools.

In their place, the district would build new K-4 buildings at Fishing Creek, Newberry and Rossmoyne; a new Allen intermediate school, plus another intermediate school; and a new Fairview Middle School.

The other facilities would be renovated under that option. New schools would start opening in the 2019-2020 school year.

The second option on the table would consolidate the two high schools into one facility at Red Land High School, and make Cedar Cliff High School a middle school. Elementary schools would remain K-5.

Under that plan, which could cost between $212.6 million and $242.1 million, the district would vacate New Cumberland Middle School as well as the Lower Allen and Rossmoyne elementary schools. Allen Middle School would be demolished, along with the Fairview, Fishing Creek and Newberry elementary schools.

There would be a new K-5 school in place of Allen, plus new elementary schools at Fairview, Fishing Creek and Newberry. Crossroads Middle School would be renovated and Red Land would be expanded to accommodate the Cedar Cliff students.

The phased plan starts with the high school changes in 2019-2020 and closing New Cumberland Middle School.

Ahead of the board vote in May, a town hall meeting will be held April 24 to discuss the two options. 

The West Shore study also looked at a full-scale renovation of the entire district, which has many facilities in need of major mechanical and electrical upgrades, as well as roof replacements. That work would cost between $140.3 million and $162.8 million, but would not resolve future enrollment needs across the district.

The facilities plan assumes there will be no changes to public school funding, though changes are possible in the current political environment. For many years, ttate lawmakers have been pushing plans to reform and eliminate property taxes, with most proposals looking to replace them with increases in sales and income taxes.

The district also assumes a state reimbursement program commonly known as PlanCON will be not restored.

The district plans to leverage its capital reserves to help smooth out tax increases associated with project-related debt. Officials are proposing incremental increases of no more than 0.2 mills over 10 years.

The median assessed property in the Cumberland County portion of the district, which is $165,000, would pay about $33 more in annual taxes, according to the district. In the York County portion, the median home priced at $143,000 would pay about $28.60 more per year.

If the district were to levy the required tax increase all at once, the amount would be about $252.45 for the median assessed property in Cumberland County. In York County, the one-time hike would total $277.42. For a $300,000 property, those numbers jump to $459 in Cumberland County and $582 in York County.

See the committee’s full presentation below.

West Shore feasibility study by CPBJ on Scribd

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