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January 4, 2013

Two school projects up for vote

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Voters will soon decide the fate of capital projects in two area schools.

The polls will be open in the Oneonta City School District from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday for voting on a $4.6 million project. Balloting will take place at the former Center Street Elementary School building.

A newsletter on the work was recently mailed on the project, including the scope of work and the date and time for voting. No new building is involved, interim Superintendent David Rowley said. Instead, it involved maintenance and replacements or upgrades of equipment.

It provides for spending $1.5 million for districtwide work, including technology upgrades in the middle/high school and three elementary buildings. A security and video surveillance system would be installed in all buildings. This is a long-standing recommendation of the school’s safety committee that is more important with recent national events, Rowley said.

The project also calls for projects at each of the school buildings, except for Center Street. This includes $1.6 million of work at the middle/high school. The drainage behind the buildings would be improved, so runoff during heavy rains won’t get into the building. 

If approved, the state will pay about 70 percent of the costs. The local share, starting in the 2014-15 school year, is $119,000 a year over the 15-year lifetime of the bonds. That would be equal to a 0.6 percent tax-levy increase, Rowley said

Voters in the Sidney Central School District will decide on two propositions, including a $7.7 million capital project, on Jan. 15. Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the lobby outside the high school auditorium. A community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the high school auditorium.

The vote had been scheduled for Oct. 30 but was postponed because of potential severe weather.

The first proposition is for the capital project. The district anticipates about 72 percent of the work will be paid for with state funding, according to the district newsletter. With $1.5 million in reserve funds also being used, the remaining local share is $701,385. On a $100,000 home, the approximate cost would be about $4 annually.

About $3 million will be used for such work as installing new athletic fields and track at the high school. About 60 percent of students in grades seven through 12 use the fields, but drainage issues make it difficult to use them in the spring and the conditions are worse in the fall, Superintendent Bill Christiansen said. Until the fields can be replaced, students and parents are forced to travel to other locations. Sidewalk and safety issues will also be addressed.

Another $2.1 million will be used to reduce the number of boilers and provide a more energy-efficient system that can be converted to natural gas, instead of only oil, Christiansen said. The current boilers are 50-60 years old. Instead of spending money to maintain them, which is not reimbursed by state aid, it makes economic sense to replace them, he said.

The second proposition would set up a $1.5 million capital reserve fund that could be used for infrastructure upgrades while minimizing the impact on taxpayers, according to the newsletter.

This has no impact on taxes, instead the money would come from such areas as budget savings and unappropriated balances in the general fund, he said. Voters would need to approve spending the money on any projects.