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Pocono Mountain School Board (PMSB) Action on Athletic Field Improvement

The monthly PMSB meeting held on August 19th included discussion of the preliminary feasibility study regarding the improvement of athletic fields for both Pocono Mountain East and West High Schools.  When Board members were asked for their response to the feasibility study, all except one Board member said they would vote for the improvement.  Only Jackie Leonard declined to support the proposal, saying she felt it more financial responsible to maintain the money in the capital fund for future capital needs.   We appreciate Jackie Leonard’s continued strength in consistently supporting fiscal restraint at PMSD. Meg Dilger was disappointed she could not attend for personal reasons.

Although the proposal has been referred to as a stadium, it is better described as improvements to two athletic fields at East and West High Schools which include extensive seating and astro-turf.  There will not be an enclosed building at either location.  However, the cost proposal does not include major items which may eventually be added -- bleachers, lighting, locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, architectural and other fees, etc. Even excluding these expenses, the proposed cost of both field improvements exceeds $4 million with about $2.6+ million required for two fields of astro-turf.  The Board members feel this is required because all of PMSD’s football competitors (except the Catholic High School) in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference play on astro-turf, and any improvement made at West should be duplicated at East.  The improvements benefit all sports except for baseball.

The positive news is that the funds will come from the Capital Fund and do not require an immediate increase in taxes or issuance of bonds.  A representative of the PMSD Board explained to me that there is $2 million currently in the Capital Fund; and with sale proceeds of the Coolbaugh Elementary the total should reach about $4.5 million.  However, receipt of the funds from the sale of Coolbaugh are dependent on approval by the government buyer (Head Start).

Given capital needs are included in future budgets at $2 million annually, additional funding could be required in 2018 to replenish the Capital Fund.  If so, the School Board representative has stated the Board intends not to increase taxes but utilize available general revenues.  However, given the cost proposals do not include a significant number of add-on costs and Coolbaugh proceeds are not 100% assured, the Capital Fund may need replenishment earlier than 2018.

Many students and coaches expressed their need for the astroturf.  (Many of these speakers do not pay taxes.)  Some residents including George Alt, Ethel Huff and others expressed concern over the cost of astroturf to taxpayers even given funding is coming from the Capital Fund — eventually the Capital Fund must be replenished. But the majority of Board Members feel our students should not be disadvantaged by not playing on astroturf.

Last night at the 9/16 Board meeting Meg Dilger very articulately expressed her nonsupport for this effort.  Meg feels given the uncertain state of student enrollment and school finances, it is best to table this project.  She also stated that it is not judicious to spend $250 thousand on engineering and architectural fees when the project itself is still questionable.  (That is what happened at Barrett Elementary).  She also stated there was no public notice given that a RFP (Request for Proposal) for the architectural and engineering fees had been sent out and that 12 responses have already been received.

Meg had requested in June that a voter referendum be held to demonstrate voter desires regarding this project.  However, the Board did not act until the deadline for a referendum submission had passed.  Meg feels an alternative is a survey via a mailer with postcard with prepaid return postage.  Hopefully this alternative will be presented at a special meeting to be held on September 30th to discuss the top 3 respondents to the architectural/engineering RFP.  The meeting is informational only, and no residents will be allowed to ask questions.  

Meg is very disappointed with the lack of Board leadership shown on this project. And given funds were also appropriated last night for remedial classes, she feels the funds would be better spent on academics. Unfortunately Meg is not running for reelection this Fall, and we thank her for 12 years of dedicated work on the School Board.

You can email your feelings about this project directly to the Board, so that your thoughts can be considered before this special meeting on 9/30.  If you wish, please email one or more of the following:

Superintendent of PMSD, Dr. Elizabeth Robison,
President of the School Board, Rusty Johnson,
Vice-President of the School Board, John Coyle,
Directors of the School Board,
     John Davis,
     Meg Dilger,
     Anabella Lastowski,
     Jacquelyn Leonard,
     Ricky Smith,
     Michael Stern,
     Dawn Wood,

Our sincere thanks to Mary Price and JoEllen Chadwick for their dedicated coverage of these PMSD issues.

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