W-B Area’s new high school will hike taxes

The project will raise the district bud­get by an av­er­age of $6.3 mil­lion.

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHAEL P. BUF­FER STAFF WRITER

The plan to build a new con­sol­i­dated high school in Plains Twp. is go­ing to in­crease the Wilkes-barre Area School District bud­get by an av­er­age of $6.3 mil­lion a year, ac­cord­ing to a new pro­jec­tion.

The net af­fect on the district prop­erty tax rate is an in­crease of 2.32 mills — $2.32 for each $1,000 in prop­erty as­sess­ment. The cost pro­jec­tions are in­cluded in a book­let pre­pared for the Oct. 29 hear­ing on the project. One op­tion to fund the project is through bond is­sue with debt pay­ments that start in Septem­ber 2019 and end in March 2059. The to­tal district cost is nearly $264 mil­lion, and the in­ter­est cost is nearly $180 mil­lion.

The district plans to merge its three high schools — Mey­ers, GAR and Cough­lin — into the new high school in Plains Twp. dur­ing the 2021-22 school year. A res­o­lu­tion es­tab­lished a max­i­mum cost of $137.3 mil­lion for the project.

The district is buy­ing a 78-acre site in Plains Twp. for the new school from Pag­notti En­ter­prises for $4.25 mil­lion. The district bud­get for the 2018-19 fis­cal year is nearly $122 mil­lion, and the tax rate is $18.0364 mills.

School of­fi­cials have said build­ing a new con­sol­i­dated fa­cil­ity will cost sig­nif­i­cantly less than re­pair­ing ag­ing high school build­ings. They also claim the con­sol­i­da­tion will re­duce per­son­nel and op­er­at­ing costs.

The new high school will have 200 em­ploy­ees and 2,100 stu­dents in grades 9-12 when it opens. It can ac­com­mo­date up to 2,520 stu­dents, and the pro­gram area will con­sist of 401,500 square feet, in­clud­ing a nata­to­rium.

The school au­di­to­rium will have 1,100 seats, and the main gym will have 1,800 seats. By com­bin­ing the main gym with an aux­il­iary gym, seat­ing can be

ex­panded to 3,000.

The Oct. 29 hear­ing on the school projects is sched­uled to start 6 p.m. at Solomon Plains El­e­men­tary/ju­nior High School in Plains Twp. Any­one who wishes to speak at the hear­ing must sign in by 5:55 p.m.

The time limit for each pub­lic speaker at the hear­ing is three min­utes. Ad­di­tional writ­ten com­ments can be sub­mit­ted to the district or the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion un­til 30 days af­ter the hear­ing.

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