commission and school board discussion

Representatives of Mt. Lebanon’s commission and school board met in February for one of a continuing series of joint municipal and school district leadership meetings. Commission President David Brumfield and School Board President Josephine Posti joined Commissioner Kristin Linfante and School Director Elaine Cappucci for the discussion session, held at the municipal building. Like the first meeting all meetings will be open to the public and include a public comment section.

Brumfield stressed that the meetings will be informal; no on-the-spot action can be taken by either group. “These are just discussions to see if we can find ways to work better together,” said Brumfield.

Commissioners and school directors each contributed items to the meeting’s agenda, which touched on topics such as parking issues, recycling opportunities, field maintenance and development and opportunities for sharing of equipment.

Posti and Cappucci asked that the municipality consider reducing the permit fees for the high school renovation project. The fees, calculated at 0.75 percent of the project’s projected $88 million cost, amount to about $660,000. Posti presented the commissioners with data from school projects in other communities where the municipalities charged lower fees, sometimes just enough to cover municipal staff costs.

“We share a common goal, to reduce the tax burden on the community,” Posti said. “If some of that money could be refunded, and we could put it back into the project, that would reduce the amount we would have to borrow in the future.”

Brumfield countered that there was no provision in the Mt. Lebanon code for reducing fees but said he was willing to take the request back to the commission. The fees for the project reflect significant staff time and cost to review plans and inspect work over a four-year period. The school district paid all inspection fees for the renovations to the seven elementary schools, a project that spanned several years in the early 2000s. Keystone Oaks and Seton-LaSalle hgih schools, both located in Mt. Lebanon, pay permit fees.

“If we’d refund money to you to save school taxes, it would just come out of municipal taxes. But if there are joint projects in the future that involve cash up front, we’ll see if we can fine tune it and see what our options are, while still maintaining the integrity of the system.”

The school directors requested that the municipality work with them on a school parking issue. “Teachers at Washington and Mellon have a unique situation,” Posti said. “Neither school has adequate parking.” She asked that the municipality consider changing the spaces on Castle Shannon Boulevard, past the library’s book drop-off, which are now three-hour parking spots, into permit spaces for the district during school hours.

The officials addressed the perennial problem of field maintenance and development. After talking with public works superintendent Rudy Sukal, Brumfield said Sukal told him there were two levels of field improvement to bring the worst fields up to a more acceptable level. One option is to mix in additives to the soil that would reduce the clay content, allowing for better drainage so the field could be used faster after a rain. The cost for the treatment ranges from $8,000 to $20,000 per field, depending on size, and the fields would be out of commission for about two weeks.
The more expensive option, Brumfield said, would be to install a new drainage system, at a higher cost—about $60,000 to $70,000—and requiring the field to be out of action for a couple of months.

Brumfield said he has had some discussions with John Grogan, Mt. Lebanon School District athletic director, to prioritize a list of fields before going forward with any maintenance plans.

“These fields are all community assets,” said Brumfield. “I don’t care which fields (municipal or school district) we improve. Everybody uses all the fields.”

In closing, Brumfield said the meetings would continue, and in the future different commissioners and school board members would attend.