Board considers building upgrades

MIFFLINTOWN – What is more important; education or infrastructure?

That was the question Juniata County School Board members faced Thursday evening during a workshop meeting to discuss district planning and the budget. Many who attended said the two go hand-in-hand.

Superintendent Richard Musselman presented the board with a long list of items to consider, from building renovations to security and athletics. Some of the needs cited were replacement doors throughout the district, heating and air conditioning modifications, replacement of electrical service panels, blacktop repair, and security upgrades. The board also heard a brief presentation about upcoming roof restorations and replacements throughout the district.

The five board members present – John Noss, Melvin Brubaker, Christine Shadel, Glenda Leister and Amy Wagner – recognized the needs presented but expressed concern over deciding which projects to tackle first and to what degree.

“I am so disappointed, sitting here looking at this,” Leister admitted. “When I look at this list, my mouth drops.”

Leister said she is disappointed in past district leadership who seemingly failed to maintain district infrastructure.

“This is just astounding to me,” she said. “If stuff would have been maintained, you wouldn’t be looking at all this.”

Leister pointed out that there is a limit to what the board can include in its budget and how much it can raise taxes to do so. She said repairing infrastructure is important, but encouraged the board to think about the education of students first.

At the same time, Brubaker talked about a “one and done” approach. Rather than repairing bits and pieces to hold buildings together, he recommended full replacements or renovations up front.

Also during the meeting, Business Manager Richard Meily presented an updated version of the preliminary budget. He said little changed except for a slight overall decrease in real estate taxes, based on increased state taxpayer allocation. Meily said as a result, homeowners will see a reduction in property taxes that will not reduce the district’s overall revenue.

Meily said the preliminary budget is balanced based on $33,247,888 in total revenue. The budget currently includes the addition of three elementary-level media specialists/librarians.

The budget is up for adoption during next Thursday’s meeting, and the final adoption of the budget is scheduled for June.

In the meantime, the board asked Musselman to generate a quote on repairs to the roofs at Lack-Tuscarora Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School – two schools that have been identified as having the most urgent need. The board also requested that Musselman add a motion to the agenda for the next meeting for approval for replacing the grandstands at Dietrick Field. The estimated cost is between $200,000 and $219,000.