AASB to decide on tax increase

The Altoona Area School Board will choose between two budget options tonight, one with a tax increase and one without.

In addition, early costs for planned Mansion Park upgrades will be on the agenda.

Board members may be reluctant to spend for engineering studies, especially with the budget’s projected deficit, but a majority agree that bathrooms need to be made handicap accessible.

One option includes a mill rate set at 6.0013 mills on assessed value of real estate for the 2019-20 school year. It does not include a tax increase.

The other option would set a mill rate at 6.2053 mills — a 0.204 mill increase — which is about a $21 increase on the average residential assessed value of $103,000, according to district business administrators.

In either case, the budget’s expenditures are $114 million.

The difference between the options is $620,600 which would be achieved in the option with the tax increase. That revenue would decrease the projected deficit, but not by much.

With the revenue from the tax increase, the district projects a deficit of $8.5 million by the end of the year — and $9.2 million without the tax increase.

There are two Mansion Park options that the board will choose from tonight. Both options deal with survey, design and construction documents, bidding and construction administration.

Option 1 includes converting Mansion Park’s concession building into accessible male and female restrooms at a cost of $35,000.

The second option is $60,000 and includes a handicap accessible restroom building, modifying the home and away grandstands to provide accessible seating and an accessible route to seating in current code compliant ramps.

Those two options resulted from the board’s previous work session, where members pared down a list of potential projects generated by Stiffler-McGraw Engineers Surveyors and Architects.

Stiffler-McGraw submitted a proposal for architectural and engineering services for accessibility at Mansion Park Stadium and Penn-Lincoln, Baker and McAuliffe Heights elementary schools.

Working from that menu of projects, the board prioritized Mansion Park.

By the end of that work session, the board had reached a consensus in support of Dave Francis’s idea to prioritize the Mansion Park bathrooms and grandstands.

“The way we are financially, our reserves are dwindling and we can only afford so much. We can’t do everything at once,” Francis said. “Mansion Park is largest place where (Americans with Dis­abilities Act) compliance is needed.”

Rick Hoover, Ron Johnston, Bill Ceglar, Dutch Brennan and Ed Kreuz generally agreed that Mansion Park is the logical place to go with making handicap accessibility upgrades.

Kelly Irwin Adams said she needed more time before she voted to spend any money, considering the budget projection.

Sharon Bream is not in favor of it.

“I don’t know where you are getting money when the budget is projected to be $9 million in the hole,” Bream said.

Superintendent Charles Prijatelj informed the board that the $60,000 fee did not include design and specs for construction.

The services to be voted on tonight would give the board a rough design but not a set of plans to build it.

“That might give people sticker shock,” Prijatelj said.

Hoover, who uses a wheelchair, said the upgrades are important.

“To me, the ADA compliance is a biggie. That may sound selfish on my part. But it’s not about me. It’s about the other people with handicaps through the years,” he said. “If we can, we should focus on the ADA compliance with Mansion Park. It’s been out of compliance since 1993.”

The meeting is scheduled for 7 tonight in the William P. Kimmel Board Room.