B'ville $26m Capital Project on Ballot

District residents are asked to approve $26 million in capital improvement projects throughout the Baldwinsville school district.

"[There are] upgrades and replacements that really need to be done," said Mike Shusda, assistant superintendent of schools. "The boilers are more than 40 years old; the electrical and heating systems are original to the building. We need to upgrade the wiring for the security that needs to be done."

These capital improvements were part of an October 2007 proposal that was defeated by voters.

"From the survey we did afterward, one of the reasons for the defeat is that it was coupled with the proposed artificial turf at the Pelcher-Acaro field. This is no longer in the budget," Shusda said.

This revised project takes into account three priorities residents indicated in the survey: improving the delivery of educational services, improving the safety of facilities and limiting the tax dollar increase.

A public hearing regarding the $26 million proposal will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 10 in the Baker High School cafeteria. Officials will be on hand to listen to public comment and offer answers prior to the vote that will take place next Wednesday. This will be the fourth public hearing on the proposal.

Most of the funding is expected to come from the state: $21.1 million from annual building construction and improvement aid and $1.9 million from a one-time "EXCEL aid" fund. The remainder of the project will be paid for with $3 million from the district's capital reserve. Bonds may be issued.

If approved, project design will begin in the spring, subject to review and approval by the state. Security, safety, system and technology upgrades take up much of the budget with half of the funds going to Baker High School. Upgrades at the Pelcher-Acardo Stadium will benefit the people using it for a variety of activities. At the earliest, bids would go out in the spring of 2010. The school board has approved this project with the understanding that no increase in local taxes will be required. A key question, however, is given the state's current financial crisis and uncertain prospects for the future, what will happen if the state decides to reduce the amount of aid after the project is already underway? If that happens, the school board has said in a mailing to district residents that they "will re-evaluate the components of the project that would need to be eliminated or reduced in order to avoid the tax increase."

The budget vote will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 17 at the Baker High School auditorium. Eligible residents must be 18 years old and have resided within the school district for 30 days or more.

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