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The Dover school board is taking another step toward a new high school with the approval of a public hearing on the project scheduled for early 2018.

Directors voted to adopt a resolution to hold a public hearing on the proposed Dover Area High School project in a 7-1 vote at a board meeting Nov. 14.

Board member Terry Emig was the sole vote against adopting the measure. Board vice president Charles DeLauter was absent.

The agenda for the Act 34 hearing is outlined in a booklet available for review at the school district's offices  and online on the district website, www.doversd.org.

The project's total cost is to be capped at $65 million, $57 million of which would be for design and new construction and $8 million for finance, contingency and other construction-related costs.

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A mass-mailing will be sent out to district taxpayers, notifying them of the public hearing at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Dover Area High School auditorium, according to district business manager Jennifer Benko.

The mailer will include a small financial-impact description and other information related to the proposed project.

Dover Area school board president Nathan Eifert said the financial impact to taxpayers will be discussed at length during the January  hearing, but he added the board will be mindful of taxpayers.

"The district is in an incredibly strong financial position today thanks to prudent fiscal management," Eifert said. The board's fiscal management has resulted in three consecutive years of no real estate tax increases,  along with the elimination of the per capita tax in 2016.

The Dover board has made progress on reviewing the needs of district facilities, particularly Dover Area Intermediate School and Dover Area High School, since July 2016, though Eifert said the board has discussed the need for several years.

"We have significant physical plant deficiencies at the intermediate school that impact our educational programming opportunities," he said. "The board would be irresponsible if it did not look ahead and plan for the future physical needs of the district."

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The Dover school board approved architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates in March and saw four potential design options in June.

A month later, board members approved a tentative design option that would build a new high school on the grounds of the current intermediate school while refurbishing the existing high school to house intermediate students.

The January  hearing will be the first and only public hearing related to the project, as required by law. A second hearing would be held only in the instance where bids are more than 8 percent above the maximum estimated cost outlined in the  resolution. 

Eifert reiterated "no official decision has been made at this point" regarding formal construction of the facilities, though it is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Potential savings: Dover board members also approved a fund transfer of $2.1 million from its general fund to a fund for capital projects.

Benko said the district budgeted about $900,000 in reimbursements from the state related to its bonds for past building projects but instead received $3 million in back payments.

She and board treasurer Steve Cook said the extra $2.1 million could support direct funding for renovation efforts at the intermediate school instead of borrowing money and accruing interest.

Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez via email at jgonzalez@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @EducationYD.

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