Aug 21, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles board of education discussed proposing a $2.5 million capital project for building improvements at its Aug. 20 meeting.
The proposal will include items that were included in the $22.7 million proposal that was defeated by a public vote on June 11.
Board Vice President Thomas Lambdin gave a report summarizing the proposal that was formulated by the board’s facilities committee, consisting of Lambdin, Kathryn Carlson and Sue Murphy, who met with Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Dale Bates on Aug. 19.
The project will include five items, all addressing the middle school/high school building, from the June proposal that the committee believed will be supported by residents and are the most critical, Lambdin said.
“In light of further information that we’ve gotten from people and also assessment of the most urgent items, we did conclude that these five areas the most urgent,” he said.
The items they chose to include are: roof replacements (estimated to cost $1.7 million), masonry repairs ($500,000), commons window wall repair ($118,000), boiler room areaway drainage repair ($102,000) and safety and security replacements including replacing interior door locks, cameras and motion detectors ($94,000).
Interim Superintendent Judy Pastel said that the asbestos removal is still important, but was left off because it must be done after the repairs are done to stop water leakage in the building.
“No one feels that the lighting and the asbestos and the energy options that we looked at aren’t important, what’s solid about this is that there are very clear priorities and they make sense from a construction standpoint and also fiscally,” Pastel said.
The board hopes to officially approve the scope of the proposal at its Oct. 17 meeting and hold a public vote in Dec. 10, which will provide enough lead time for work to begin next summer.
Some of the issues that were not included in this project, such as asbestos removal and the middle school gymnasium, will be addressed by future projects, Lambdin said. By doing smaller capital projects at shorter intervals than have been done in the past, the district will be better able to adapt to the needs of the district and get public input, he said.
Board member Margaret Usdansky-Niebuhr said that the board should distribute information and hold meetings with residents before the October approval to get feedback and do their best to inform the public about the project and why it is necessary.
Board members and school principals also stressed that they want to sign up as many people as they can for the School News Notifier, an automated system that sends out messages via email or text message to residents about important issues in the district. Anyone can sign up for the service at skanschools.org.
— At the beginning of the meeting, Skaneateles graduate Matt Leverich read a speech he had prepared, but was unable to read due to rain, for graduation commending outgoing high school principal Georgette Hoskins for her years of dedication to the district.
The board also recognized Timothy Chiavara who was attending his last meeting as middle school principal, he will also be retiring shortly after the start of the school year.
–Bates addressed the district’s recent drop in credit rating. Moody’s Corporation, an independent firm that determines credit ratings for school districts, dropped Skaneateles one notch from an AA3 to an AA2 rating.
Bates said that the rating will not affect current debt, but would have a slight impact on interest rates and financing for any future loans. Bates said that the drop was a result of a number of factors including the local economy, lack of assessment increases and the public’s defeat of the capital project referendum in June. He said that the district will apply for a better rating prior to sending out a bid for a new bond.
–Pasel commented on the results of the grade three through eight standardized tests in math and English that were recently released. Pastel said that the scores should not be compared to past years, because these results are the first to reflect the Common Core learning standards that all schools statewide have adopted.
“As the commissioner [State Education Commissioner John King] has said, this is a new beginning, this is a new baseline. The tests are incredibly different, the format of the tests is very different and certainly the curricula are very, very different,” she said.
Pastel also gave a presentation on the new criteria under the Common Core standards and changes to how the state develops its mean growth percentile and other data relating to the tests.
–Bates gave a summary of the tax rates for the 2013-14 budget year. The towns of Skaneateles, Spafford, Marcellus, Sennett and Niles will all have a rate of $14.44 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, while the town of Owasco will have a rate of $16.60. This means that a house in Skaneateles assessed at $275,000 will owe $3,971, an increase from last year of about $124.
The town of Spafford’s tax rate increased by 18 percent, from $12.21 to $14.44, as a result of recently updating its assessments, though its share of the total levy only increased by about 1 percent, Bates said.
Bates also reported that the school lunch program finished last year $33,000 in the red, which has been typical for most school districts in the area recently. The board will revisit the issue at a later meeting and explore solutions to the problem such as of supplementing the program with money from the general fund or looking at alternatives to the federal lunch program.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.