Bucks County Herald

Quakertown board members uneasy over construction costs

BARRIE-JOHN MURPHY

Quakertown Community school board members Austin Sedicum and Steaven Klein have called on the district to press pause on its $83 million school construction project due to begin in 2021.

Klein called for a non-binding referendum on the matter while Sedicum cited the district’s precarious financial situation if the Property Tax Independence Act passes as well as unanticipated costs for additional charter schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has vowed to expand charter schools and voucher programs, which divert money intended for public schools to allow parents to send their children to alternative schools.

“What if we have to divert 6 to 8 percent of our budget to fund charters? That would be devastating,” Sedicum said.

Referring to the district’s current $4.3 million budget gap, Sedicum said, “We haven’t figured out how to spend for next year yet, and we’re spending for 30 years.”

His colleague, Charles Shermer, brushed aside Sedicum’s wait-and-see approach. Shermer said the district could continue to patch (spending $60 million on repairs over 10 years) or make good on a capital investment, a $134 million master plan to build two schools on West Pumping Station Road and renovate existing elementary schools.

“I’m not opposed to new schools. It’s the financial commitment,” Sedicum said defensively.

Board President Paul Stepanoff directed the finance committee and administrators to put together a budget detailing district costs given the continued uncertainty over financing.

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