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School upgrade plan goes to voters

School upgrade plan goes to voters

Voters in the seven towns encompassed by the Sharon Springs Central School District will decide Oct.

Voters in the seven towns encompassed by the Sharon Springs Central School District will decide Oct. 21 on a proposed $3 million building and grounds improvement project.

The district’s Board of Education voted Monday night to proceed with the full scope of plans outlined last month. The vote was 4-0, with board President Alan Potter absent.

Although at least $67,179 of the proposed project would use special aid under the state’s Expanding Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) program, 95 percent of the overall work will be reimbursed from regular state building aid, district Business Manager Anthony DiPace said Tuesday.

Tax impacts will be minimal, according to DiPace and district Superintendent Patterson Green.

Under what he called a “worst case scenario,” DiPace said the project would add only about $12,000 per year, for 15 years, to the total amount the district raises from taxes.

“That’s less than a half-percent of the tax levy,” DiPace said.

Last month, school officials heard architect Daniel Wilson Fay and municipal finance specialist Richard G. Timbs outline a range of options for a building and grounds improvement project that ranged from a total of $1.4 million to $3 million.

At that time, Timbs estimated the average maximum tax impact from a $3 million project at about $11 per year for a typical taxpayer assessed at $100,000 value and with the residential STAR exemption. That would drop to about $7 for income-qualified taxpayers with enhanced (senior citizen) STAR, or about $16 per year for a taxpayer without any exemptions.

DiPace said Tuesday that Timbs’ July estimates still hold.

Actual tax impacts would vary with individual town equalization rates.

Green said Tuesday he’s hoping a combination of state aid and investing interest income, as well as paying down earlier district loans will reduce or negate the need for any tax increases for expenses not fully covered by state aid.

Plans to invest interest from tax anticipation investments and other financial strategies will be used in an effort “to offset the entire tax base impact” DiPace said.

Over the past few weeks, discussions with state Education Department officials have determined that all of the proposals in the larger project, plus some additional work, will qualify for maximum state aid, Green said.

Included among $2 million in specific renovations at the single-building Sharon Springs Central School are:

*  Replacing playground equipment, $150,000;

*  Replacing 1950s-era lockers, $65,000;

*  Replacing interior stairs, $140,000;

*  Repairs to front entrance, $102,000;

*  Replacing building roof, $303,800;

*  Reconstructing the old gymnasium ceiling, $63,000;

*  Replacing pneumatic controls, $208.000;

*  Replacing exterior windows in the three-story school building, $258,000;

*  Rebuilding four bathrooms to comply with handicapped access regulations, $140,000;

*  And a $75,000 plan to improve safety and access for buses and parents dropping off or picking up students.

The plan would open a route from the auditorium parking lot to state Route 10 east of the campus, Green said.

The traffic plan is still pending review and approval from the state Department of Transportation, he said.

Additional improvements planned include digital camera systems, security systems and keyless entry card-swipe locks, and a variety of other building renovation and improvements.

Last fall and winter, district officials had sought only to use a $305,062 allotment of state EXCEL aid to replace wooden playground equipment that they said is nearing the end of its useful life.

Although many other districts in the state are adding major building projects to various EXCEL funds, local school board members did not initially plan to leverage those funds into a bigger project.

Because of state aid guidelines, however, the planned playground project was found to not qualify for much EXCEL aid because such work was considered only incidental to a major project.

After investigating options, district officials proposed the larger project this summer.

“This is not a frivolous list,” Green said. “We have these needs around the building for our facilities. If we don’t do it today, It’s going to cost more [in the future]” he said.

“Those things have to be done,” DiPace said. “Let’s get the money that we can from the state ... and right now, I think it’s a very nominal impact,” he said.

Based on Timbs’ projected schedule, construction would not start until 2010, if voters approve in October.

The district includes portions of seven towns: Sharon, Seward, Carlisle, Canajoharie, Root, Cherry Valley, and Roseboom.

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