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Kunkel Elementary School decision not likely to happen soon

By Phyllis Zimmerman, Special to the Press & Journal
Posted 6/19/19

Once again, the Middletown Area School District faces new circumstances regarding a potential land sale near Kunkel Elementary School in Lower Swatara Township.

Earlier this year, district …

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Kunkel Elementary School decision not likely to happen soon

Posted

Once again, the Middletown Area School District faces new circumstances regarding a potential land sale near Kunkel Elementary School in Lower Swatara Township.

Earlier this year, district officials considered expanding or even replacing the Kunkel building with a new school that would be built on a neighboring property along Fulling Mill Road as part of a proposed district reconfiguration that would accommodate projected future enrollment growth.

A few months later, however, the district’s considerations about Kunkel took an abrupt turn after a Realtor told the Press & Journal that “a large national developer” was interested in purchasing three of four land tracts owned by Tom and Tiz Williams along Fulling Mill Road. The property that was under contract included land on both sides of Kunkel Elementary and the 152-acre tract to the north of Fulling Mill.

The Williams’ potential buyer was NorthPoint Development, a Kansas City-based company that would have required rezoning the residential-agricultural tracts to accommodate several warehouses.

In response to the pending sale, the district began considering selling the land on which Kunkel sits. It wouldn’t be long, though, before matters took yet another turn.

On June 6, a NorthPoint Development representative told Lower Swatara Township commissioners that the firm no longer is interested in the property in light of strong public opposition to the project.

Middletown Superintendent Lori Suski said at a school board meeting June 10, however, that NorthPoint Development’s recent turnaround doesn’t necessarily mean that the district is in the clear to resume previous considerations for the Kunkel building and its surrounding areas.

“Although NorthPoint is reportedly withdrawing its (sale) offer, that doesn’t mean that another developer may not soon come in with a similar plan, and we are back to square one. During the summer months, we will take another look at enrollment projections to determine how long we can wait to decide about a renovation/addition to Kunkel vs. a new school, but at this point, I don’t anticipate any decision until we see what happens with the Williams farm,” Suski said.

In other news, district chief financial officer David Franklin said that the district expects to save $100,000 per year through a new five-year lease agreement with Doceo for the district’s copiers and multi-function printing devices.

The lease was approved by the school board May 28 and will take effect next school year.

However, Franklin noted, “that reduction would do nothing to taxes as it just eliminates a deficit. It would not be able to reduce revenue since it just closes the gap between revenue and expenditures.”

Last month, the board approved a preliminary district budget for 2019-20 that raises real estate taxes by 4.37 percent. The increase would cost another $96.75 a year for every $100,000 of assessed value for a property in the district.

Suski and Franklin both pledged last month to work toward lowering the tax increase before the district’s final budget adoption scheduled for Tuesday.

“There will be other changes to the budget when it is adopted next week,” Franklin said June 12.