Avon Grove School Board unanimously consents to facilities project budget
● By Steven Hoffman
For the second time in less than six months, Avon Grove School District officials are pushing back against deliberate attempts to spread misinformation about the facilities project that includes the construction of a new high school and renovation of the current high school into a middle school.
At the April 11 budget work session of the district’s Committee-of-the-Whole, the school board unanimously agreed that the maximum authorized cost for the facilities construction project is $127 million.
This vote was in response to false information that has been circulating that indicates that the facilities project will cost $269 million.
According to a press release that was distributed by the school district following the Committee-of-the-Whole vote, the false information “was most likely derived from a hypothetical bond repayment schedule included in the bond parameters resolution that the school board passed in November 2018. The district would like to emphasize that the project is not going to cost $269 million, and the district is not going to borrow $139 million for this project.”
School board president Tracy Lisi addressed this misinformation printed in the Daily Local News on April 1, indicating that the “total cost of the project is expected to be well below the $127 million the board has authorized as its maximum expenditure.” While the maximum expenditure is $127 million, there is currently no expectation that the cost of this project will be well below this figure. The district has asked the newspaper to print a correction, according to the statement that was released.
The statement went on to say that, “Board policy states that it is the responsibility of the school board to clearly communicate the accurate budget to the community. The district has worked very hard to be as transparent as possible to ensure that every stakeholder is well informed regarding this district initiative. Avon Grove School District will continue to provide updates about the facilities construction project as we reach various benchmarks. For more information, visit https://www.avongrove.org/facilities-1.”
Late last year, the school board—despite objections from a few members—issued a statement attempting to correct what it called inaccurate and misleading information regarding the high school project that was shared on social media and website posts.
At that time, Lisi specifically addressed a post on a website maintained by the Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending that had a summary of a Nov. 15 meeting of the Avon Grove School Board. The summary included a headline which read, “Board votes 5-4 to increase borrowing from $127 to $139 million.” The summary then went on to say that the board voted to approve the borrowing resolution of $139 million, which is $12 million more than what was the previous “ceiling” of $127 million.
Lisi offered four detailed “fact checks” to the online posts. The most significant fact check pertained to the amount that the school district expects to borrow in order to construct a new high school and renovate the existing high school into a middle school. There was also a fact-check on a claim posted on the website that the facilities project would lock the school district into maximum tax increases for a number of years.
Lisi emphasized the need at the time for the board to correct any misinformation that is being circulated in the community to deliberately mislead residents.
“I felt compelled to correct the inaccurate information,” Lisi said.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese supported Lisi's statement about the importance of correcting any misinformation that might be circulating. He implored the school board members to be proactive when it comes to making sure that the correct information is being shared with the community.
“If we see things that are inaccurate, I feel strongly that we have a responsibility to correct it,” Marchese said. “When you see things like this, please correct it.”