AASD approves two major purchases

Funds not coming from project budget

Two major purchases were approved by the Altoona Area School Board on Monday involving the high school building construction project, but where the money was coming from was not the building project budget.

It appeared to be a round-about way of funneling money from the cost of the high school project, board member Ed Kreuz said.

“Taxpayers are getting hammered,” he said.

The school board approved the purchase of the Investment Savings Bank building at 1201 Eighth Ave. to use for administrative offices. The board also approved new wireless infrastructure for the high school.

The purchase price for the building is $710,000 plus agreed-upon closing fees not to exceed $15,000 to be paid from the district’s capital reserve.

The two purchases are involved in the high school building project, but neither of them will be funded by the project’s $88 million budget. The funds will come from the district’s capital reserve fund.

Kreuz repeatedly said the cost of new high school building wireless infrastructure, more than $1 million, should come from the funds of the construction bonds and not the capital reserve fund, which is used for physical needs across all of the district’s school buildings. Board members Dave Francis and Sharon Bream agreed.

“The capital reserve fund is $6 million and it’s taking a hit,” Francis said.

Meanwhile, the high school building project budget sets aside $1.9 million for technology.

“You have money in the loan (for technology); don’t take money out of the capital reserve,” Kreuz said.

Kreuz said to use the budgeted money, and if more is needed after that, then the board should request capital reserve money.

Other board members said using capital reserve funds was fiscally responsible because the board previously had passed a resolution to allow the use of the capital reserve funds and repay it with extra bond proceeds after the project’s completion.

Board Vice President Wayne Hippo stressed that the wireless infrastructure is essentially a physical repair of a 7-year-old system that would have been needed regardless of the new building project.

The technology purchase passed 5-4.

Francis, Bream, Ron Johnston and Kreuz voted against the purchase. Hippo, board President Dutch Brennan, Bill Ceglar, Kelly Irwin Adams and Rick Hoover approved it.

With the same division, the board also approved purchase of the Investment Savings Bank building for use as the district administrative offices, pending approval of a mutually acceptable transition plan.

The purchase price for the building is $710,000 plus agreed-upon closing fees not to exceed $15,000 to be paid from the district’s capital reserve.

A new location for administrative offices is not included in the high school construction plan because the board considered it but it would have cost $4 million that way, Ceglar said.

“We are saving the taxpayer money,” Ceglar said.

Francis disagreed, saying he believes it wouldn’t necessarily have to cost $4 million to include the administrative offices in the budget.

In a statement emailed to the Mirror, Investment Savings Bank President Vic Hrescak stated the bank is not leaving Altoona but only looking for a better location in the area.

“ISB has been in Altoona for 80 years and we intend to remain here; we are not leaving Altoona,” his statement read. “ISB is committed to our customers. Our customers’ banking experience and convenience is, and will remain, our top priority. With that in mind, we have determined that potentially selling and relocating our Altoona office may better serve our customers. Our goal will be to identify a different location that will provide enhanced customer convenience, added services and an improved technology experience. Making ISB a better bank is and will remain our front-and-center mission.”