Frequently Asked Questions
Upper Perkiomen School District has compiled a list of frequently asked questions in order to help community members and stakeholders understand the logistics of the new construction process.
If you have a question regarding the middle school construction project that is not already answered on the FAQ, please submit your question here. Questions received will be reviewed by district administration and school board members. Questions and answers submitted through this form may be added to the FAQ document after review.
Upper Perkiomen School District Middle School Construction Questions
The following document is a compilation of questions the district received to date on the construction process. We continue to add responses as more requests are received. The facilities committee, with assistance from the administration, architect and project management firm created the answers. Please note, all questions are written verbatim from our transcripts.
1. Who created the 5 options?
The facilities committee was charged with resolving the space issues that currently exist at Upper Perkiomen Middle School and Marlborough Elementary School. After discussing all of the possible options, they researched five choices: an addition to Marlborough Elementary School and Upper Perkiomen Middle School, a new K-1 Primary School, a new 5-6 Intermediate School, a new 7-8 Building or a new 6-8 Middle School. The facilities committee presented all option with a recommendation for new construction at the June 23rd board workshop meeting. Please click on the following link, http://video.mciu.org/home/nodes/308, to watch the video.
2. Are we really sure this is the best option?
After reviewing all scenarios, the facilities committee felt that a new middle school was the best option for a variety of reasons. There is currently overcrowding in two of our schools. The option to put additions on two of the schools was ruled out because the committee felt that adding a sixth addition to an already aging middle school building would put even more money into a building that had a short life span. While the district could opt to construct different configurations for a building, a new middle school would address the issue of the aging middle school that does not currently meet the needs of students in that age group. The new configuration will allow for a secondary campus where students can share facilities and middle school students can be provided enrichment opportunities. Finally, the timing the bond issue expiring will allow the district to borrow money with a minimal impact to the tax base.
3. Will there be a 20+% tax increase over the next three years?
While it is impossible to predict what the tax increase will be from year to year, due to Act 1, a 20+% tax increase would not occur without a referendum vote from the taxpayers. For the upcoming fiscal year, the Upper Perk Act 1 index is 3.0% and our STEB ratio increase is 0. The only reasons for exceptions beyond the index are special education costs and PSERS (retirement) increases. Using the upcoming school year as an example, even with exceptions, we would not be able to raise taxes 7%, approximately 1/3 of the 20+%.
4. What is the average increase to the taxpayer over the next 4 years (without state reimbursement) for the building?
The following is the possible taxpayer increase over the next 4 years for the construction of a new middle school based on worst case scenario. The district will attempt to equalize the increase through the use of reserve accounts, borrow the least amount possible and assumes there will be reimbursement through PlanCon. The tax increase is based on the assessed value of your property. This value is different than the market value of your home with the market value being significantly higher. The county ratio for 2017 is 56.1%. Therefore a house assessed at $100,000 has a market value (home value) of $178,253. Please refer to your tax bill for the assessed value of your home.
The following chart demonstrated the increase by assessed value:
The following is the tax increase by county based on the median, half of houses below the value and half above the value, and the average:
5. How did cost of the building increase over $2 million dollars since the spring?
The cost of the building increased about $500,000 since the original PlanCon A submission in May. The district plans to borrow a maximum of $56,000,000. This figure has not increased with the change in estimated costs. Approximately $50,000,000 of the total cost of the project are structural costs. The remainder are soft costs such as fees and permits.
6. Why did an architectural firm, whose job is to build, do the feasibility study versus an engineer who would have no financial stake?
The majority of feasibility studies of this type are conducted by architectural firms. The architectural firm also uses engineering services to look at the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing in each facility as part of the overall study. The study is not conducted under any assumption that the same architectural firm would implement the recommendations of the study.
7. Did the architect make a recommendation?
The architect would not make a recommendation as it is the decision ultimately of the school board. They did inform the district of the state of each facility within the feasibility study and the need for additional space.
8. Where is the Feasibility Study on the website? RTK request to see it?
The Feasibility Study is located on the construction page of the website.
9. Enrollment study and Feasibility study numbers don’t match 144 versus 199 what is the difference? Are private school kids included in counts?
The enrollment study numbers and feasibility study numbers are accurate and match. Private school students are addressed in the enrollment study. The 199 reported was a mistake as the reference was to capacity not the projected enrollment numbers.
10. Are these numbers enough to justify building a new school?
The enrollment numbers are not the sole reason for the construction of a new school. The middle school is reaching end of life and would be costly to renovate and the district currently has space issues as evidenced in the feasibility study. Further the district has opened specialized programs at all levels which require additional space.
11. It was stated that more housing is coming into the district so where is the excess revenue estimate? Are there studies on this?
The enrollment study speaks to projected housing over the next ten years. Unfortunately, the increase in taxes due to new construction does not cover the per pupil expenditure. Further, assessments are based on the value of the property when constructed and due to inconsistencies in taxes are difficult to project.
12. What if the Lower Merion School District issues were to happen at UPSD and we could not raise taxes? This coupled with PSERS (retirement) costs at peak years and an election coming up could be trouble.
Act 1 governs the tax increase in districts. Unless there is a change to the Act 1 law, the district will have the ability to raise taxes based on the index. The Lower Merion School District case has no implication on raising taxes to the Act 1 index. Our Act 1 index for the 2017-2018 school year is 3.0%.
13. We have a surplus which should help with costs – but we over-budgeted and that means poor budget management. UPSD took a token 3.5% tax increase when we didn’t need one several years ago that created a budget surplus. Are we being fiscally responsible?
The district has not over-budgeted in the past. Due to a variety of reasons, there have been years that a surplus has existed. This money allows the district to pay for unanticipated capital expenditures such as roofs, boilers, etc. Further, due to our fiscal responsibility, the district has a strong bond rating and was able to weather uncertainty of the state budget during the last school year.
14. Can the interest rate for borrowing be spread out for a longer period of time to keep the taxes lower?
Yes, but the long-term cost is higher. The board will be considering all options for financing.
15. Will there be increase in staffing/custodian/equipment needs at old MS?
We will re-allocate staff between buildings. Food service is an enterprise fund and no cost to the district. Facilities is based on square footage and will be evaluated once there is a solid determination on the 4/5 building usage. We project that we will need some custodial staff and possibly a staff nurse. There will be incurred utility costs due to additional space. However, this would occur with any new building or school addition.
16. Is there an under estimation of entire cost of the MS project?
All estimated numbers are vetted by both the architect, Breslin, Ridyard and Fadero, and the construction management company, D’Huy and the costs are consistent with comparable projects. The costs that we have projected are intended to be total project costs and we will continue to look at opportunities such as grants, value engineering and other cost saving strategies to reduce the cost to the tax payers.
17. Are we still renovating at Hereford – have we received any state reimbursement yet?
All previous renovations are complete. We have received state reimbursements for the 2006/2007/2008 bond issues which included the Hereford renovations. The reimbursement for the 2015-2016 school year will be received in the next month. We will continue to receive reimbursement for past project from the state annually.
18. What if we don’t get state reimbursement for several years?
The district will budget for the project based on no state reimbursement. However, the district has consistently received PlanCon reimbursement from the state with the exception of the 2015-2016 budget impasse year. We will receive the 2015-2016 reimbursement on 11/10/16.
19. The MS building is 80 years old but has been renovated so much that it is no longer the original building. The cafeteria just had a major renovation recently. Why would we not continue to renovate vs building?
Many of the systems are inaccessible and it does not make sense to continue to put money into a building with parts that are 70 years old. The current middle school has already undergone five renovations and any additional renovations to the current structure would require a PDE waiver to qualify for state reimbursement. Finally, renovation would be costly and not result in a school that matches the strategic vision of the district.
20. Why still use part of the building if it is too old?
We will the parts of the building that are most feasible for the students who will be educated there.
21. Why leave sections closed?
Some sections are very old and not functioning as well as others, we can reduce our operating costs as well.
22. What effect will closing sections down have on the MS building?
Reduction in operating costs.
23. Education/learning environment at the buildings – is this a reason to build a new school?
It is absolutely one of the reasons to consider when deciding on new construction. The current middle school was never intended to function as a middle school and therefore was not properly constructed for educating students at that level.
24. Why use it for any learning if this is an issue (the building)?
It actually can function well as an elementary school for the time-being because of the requirements at that level.
25. The HS is 60 years old – is this next to be addressed?
Due to the additions at the high school, it is functioning well and we do not anticipate the need for replacement any time soon. Further, the building was designed as a high school and functions well in that manner.
26. Acreage recommended for MS was 32 acres–we are going up not out which could cause ADA issues and potential environmental issues. Do we have enough land? Last study showed 16 acres for a MS – now study shows 19.3 where did the extra acreage come from?
There are no state requirements for acreage of schools. The land is approximately 43 acres in total and the facility will be part of a complex. There is enough land to build the middle school structure. All ADA and potential environmental issues must be considered as part of the construction project.
27. Do we have a record of foreclosures?
We do not have this record.
28. What is the timeline for building? Start to finish?
We anticipate breaking ground in the summer of 2017. The project completion is anticipated in 2019.
29. Bog turtles are the only species to be identified as endangered in the area of the middle school. Will we find bog turtles when we start construction?
The bog turtle investigator did not find any evidence that there are bog turtles on the New Middle School site.
30. Do we have any solid data that shows the existing Middle School is inadequate for academic achievement? There have been many claims, but where's the data? A new broom always sweeps clean, but an old broom will too if you tighten the handle. If sixth grade was dropped from the Middle School, couldn't the existing structure be affordably modified to accommodate the desired teaching methods?
There has not been a claim about academic achievement. There are more opportunities for students in a new middle school and we do not believe the current middle school, even with renovations, could function appropriately as a 21st century middle school.
31. Do we know the cost differential of using subsurface storm water detention rather than above ground basins? How much land would we need to provide adequate above ground storm water detention? Did we do the necessary testing to find where the water table lies for that property? I have a serious concern that the subsurface detention will have a constant inflow from the naturally high water table in that area. I fear it will be in constant need to be pumped out, which becomes an additional expense, or it will fail to provide adequate volume when a storm does come through. Because that parcel is so low already, what provisions are in the plans to prevent flooding should a 100, or even 50 year storm comes through?
This is what we know from the architect at this point in time:
a. 25 test pits were dug with a backhoe under the observation of a soil scientist from Isett’s office. There was no groundwater in 17 of the 25. In the other 8, groundwater was observed between 28 and 54 inches below the surface.
b. Even though groundwater was not observed in most pits, it still is a concern. As such, a membrane/liner is planned under the storage system to prevent infiltration. This membrane/liner will be necessary for both the underground storage system and above ground storage system.
c. Both a below ground or above ground storage system will require an outlet structure for overflow in the event of a 50 to 100 year storm. The water will flow to the wetland channel and then to the reservoir.
d. An above ground storage basin will require about the same area and depth as the below ground system. The architect was able to fit it into the current plan and the above ground detention storage will be more economical.
e. The project is not in the flood plain and therefore there is no anticipated risk of flooding.
32. Is the site too wet to build upon?
The architect, civil engineer and geotechnical engineer have reviewed the 25 test pits performed to evaluate the subsurface conditions for suitability to construct the building, parking lots and other improvements. The results of the investigation confirm that the site is buildable and contains appropriate soil conditions. We have further discussed with the architect and construction manager options for the use of imported structural fill under the building pad to improve the efficiency of construction and reduce the potential for the site soils to be impacted by adverse weather during construction. We have also identified areas of the site that are actually underlain with bedrock which will be factored into the site grading to minimize the need for rock removal. Every site of this size has varying site conditions and the design team is taking necessary precautions to ensure the suitability of the site to accommodate the improvements.
33. How truly practical will it be for advanced students at the new Middle School to access classes at the high school, if deemed appropriate? It will be a fairly long walk between buildings. Won't the students by nature arrive late for class at least going one direction, if not both? Would we have to provide transportation especially in the winter or stormy days? For this purpose, wouldn't placing the building in front of the High School be more practical?
It is very practical to believe our students will take classes at the high school. The distance is much less than many of our students walk to school.
34. Did we look at purchasing land and placing this building in another location? At today's prices, a 30 acre parcel should cost about $200,000 dollars. The underground storm water management system could easily cost more than that. And we'd retain the Montgomery Ave. property to accommodate future needs of the High School. What is the building expansion potential of this property?
We have not considered purchasing land because of the campus concept that would be quite advantageous for our middle school students, our high school students and our community. A quick search of properties in the district shows prices are much higher than the suggested amount.
35. When the time comes where we need more space in the High School, moving 9th grade to their own center in a building in front...adjacent to the High School makes a whole lot of sense to me. If we have a non-expandable Middle School on Montgomery Ave, and a 9th grade center in front of the high school, we may be limiting ourselves for where we can go for additional outdoor athletic facilities. We'd probably need a new elementary level building somewhere at that point too, leaving the Middle School with only 7th and 8th grade.
The current proposed structure allows for expansion of the middle school and we currently have open space in the high school to allow for expansion if necessary. Further, the land in front of the high school will be viable.
36. What is the district doing to make sure it comes in at the absolute bottom most number on that scale?
Look for the best interest rate possible, competitive bidding and borrowing when the market is prime. Value engineering is a method that will be used to keep them project costs low. The district is also researching possible grant funding.
37. Explain the statement: The cost of fully renovating and repairing the existing MS is $18M and will save the taxpayer money.
We do not have an estimated cost for a full renovation. The 18 million refers to the cost of additions in two schools.
38. How many students are currently enrolled at the Middle School?
39. How many students are there in grades 4-5 at Hereford?
40. How many students are there in grades 4-5 at Marlborough?
41. How many instructional teachers are there in grades 4-5 at Hereford? (teachers, paras, aides)
There are 11 classroom teachers and two special education teachers. We will need to review aides and paras and reallocate. They are currently assigned by building.
42. How many instructional teachers are there in grades 4-5 at Marlborough? (teachers, paras, aides)
There are 10 classroom teachers and one special education teacher. We will need to review aides and paras and reallocate. They are currently assigned by building.
43. How many extra staff?
Nurse? Possibly 1
Custodial staff? Possibly 2
Food service? We may decide to satellite 4/5 so we are unsure at this time
Staffing with mobile Resource Officer?-no
44. How much are the current annual utilities at the existing Middle School?
The cost for the 2015 calendar year was $133,903.37.
45. How does that compare from the past 5 years?
It is a cost reduction. In the calendar year 2011, the annual utilities were $161,924.61.
46. What’s the projection for the next 5-10 years trending at status quo?
Costs should be similar to current costs. Our energy star rating is 89 out of 100 so we most likely will not see additional savings.
47. If grades 4-5 moved to the existing Middle School, show me in numbers what the first year of utilities will be.
At this point in time, we do not have a projected amount but we anticipate the costs will drop.
48. Now, what cost saving improvement are you going to implement to the existing Middle School?
We are constantly looking at energy saving measures as noted in the decreased energy costs above.
49. Basically, I'm looking for a 10-20 year facilities plan for all buildings.
We paid Breslin Ridyard and Fadero Architects to do a facility study that goes out for 10 years. Towards the end life of the study, the estimates are less reliable due to the unpredictability of inflation, the market, etc. We have no ability to go out more than 10 years. If you think of your own house, it is extremely difficult to predict future costs 20 years out.
50. What is the NEXT major renovation needed- High School or Hereford? When will it be needed? Estimated Cost?
According to the feasibility study, we do not expect anything other than routine maintenance and system upgrade due to age in the next 10 years.
51. What is the funding term for Middle School? 20yrs? more?
Right now we are looking at 25 years.
52. What are cost savings if administration offices are dispersed amongst new buildings and Administration building is closed?
We would not recommend this avenue unless all offices can relocate together to a viable, professional space. The District purchased the building for approximately $2.2 Million and the renovations cost the district $2,211,015.00. The annual operating costs for the Education Center is $91,396.00.
53. Full-day kindergarten- what facilities needed? Can this be done at Education Center?
There is not adequate space at the education center for a kindergarten center. We would need 5 additional teachers and classrooms for full day kindergarten plus additional specialists to account for prep time, more custodial help, and additional food service assistance.
54. How will this impact transportation and bussing? The follow is the impact:
a. Layfield Road/Pottstown Ave and Montgomery Ave/Schoolhouse Road – Retiming of the afternoon traffic signal
b. Montgomery Ave and 8th Street – Addition of a crossing guard but we are recommending consideration of a different resolution because crossing guards are not meant to direct traffic
c. Montgomery Ave/H.S. Driveway and Walt Road/11st Street – Addition of a fourth stop sign to create a four way stop
d. Main Street and 8th Street – No changes required
e. Main Street and 11th Street – Retiming of the traffic signal in both AM and PM
55. What will be the time schedules for all schools when the new middle school and 4/5 building open?
There are going to be some alterations to the start and end times but we have not yet established what those times will be. Because of the close proximity between the middle and high school, the students will share busses and we will drop half at each school and then switch. This most likely means the start time of the high school and middle school will be same. The 4/5 building and K-3 Centers time schedules have yet to be determined.
56. What is the status of the PlanCon application?
The district has submitted PlanCon A, B, D and E. We will request board approval on PlanCon F at the May school board meeting.
57. What is the status of the LEED grant?
The LEED grant did not open in the spring as anticipated. We are hopeful that the grant will be available in the fall.
58. What is the status of the multi-modal grant?
We have not been given an update on that grant application.
59. When can we expect an answer from the Act 34 Hearing?
All documentation was submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. There is no specified timeline for approvals. We are awaiting a determination from the state. UPDATE: The board recognized approval of PlanCon D and E at the June School Board meeting.
60. What is address for the new middle school?
The address has not yet been established for the new middle school.