Facilities Improvement Plan Developed With No Local Cost

Submitted by Hannibal Central School District

HANNIBAL, NY – Hannibal Central School District is preparing to go to a public vote, seeking approval for a $26.9 million capital project that has been developed to address health and safety, facilities, technology and energy needs at all three of the district’s school buildings.

Using special state funding that came through the 2006-07 state budget, taxpayer support at the polls will allow the district to deliver the project with no local cost.

Superintendent Michael DiFabio explained that the project was developed with the use of Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) aid that was awarded to the district during the 2006-07 state funding cycle. Hannibal was awarded $1,298,070 under the state’s EXCEL initiative.

Through careful planning, DiFabio said the district has worked to find ways to maximize the benefits of its EXCEL award.

“We tried to take a very proactive approach to planning out a capital project that would maximize the benefits of our EXCEL funds while addressing the district’s needs,” DiFabio explained.

Under the guidelines for EXCEL spending, at least 75 percent of the allocations to school districts must be committed to projects that fall within five categories, which include education technology, health and safety, accessibility, energy and instructional capacity expansions. Twenty-five percent of the money can be spent on items outside of the five categories to meet additional student needs.

“The project that has been put together fits very comfortably within the five areas,” DiFabio said.

“If we use our EXCEL funding alone, we would be able to address only a few needs in the district,” DiFabio added. “Instead, we have opted to use it to fulfill our local share obligation on a much larger project.”

Business administrator Nancy Henner said that this is the first time the district has been able to use state aid to displace the local costs of a capital project.

“Hannibal receives a 98 percent reimbursement rate on capital projects,” Henner said. “By using the $1,298,070 to meet our local share, the district could have developed a project valued at $64,903,500 and still have come through with no local cost.”

Community input has been a key element to the development of the project. DiFabio said the district hosted three community sessions during February and March 2007 to gain community input for the project.

“The point of the sessions was to explain what EXCEL is and detail where it can be spent,” he said. “We also wanted to get a better understanding of how the community believes the money should be used.”

In addition to that, the district established the EXCEL Aid Core Committee, which is made up of district administration, faculty and staff, town and village officials, and community members.

The capital project was developed as a facilities improvement plan that sets down a list of priorities that include infrastructure, instructional-space and athletic facility improvements, energy-saving renovations, disability-access expansions, and security upgrades at all three school buildings.

“If voters approve the project, it will be sent to the State Education Department for approval,” DiFabio said.

Construction for the project would begin in the summer of 2010 and would take approximately a year.

“We are not building on to any of our facilities,” DiFabio said. “The district footprint will stay the same so the project will not take as long as some projects have in the past.”

To prepare for the vote, which will be held Nov. 4, the district is planning to release a series of news articles to detail the project components, both by building and district wide. Two informational sessions will also be held. The first is planned for 7 p.m., Oct. 14 at the Fairley Elementary Cafeteria; the second will begin at 7 p.m.,
Oct. 23 at the Kenney Middle School Cafeteria.

“We are also putting together a pamphlet for taxpayers, as well as a project matrix that will break the project down by building with costs included,” Henner said. “It will be available at all three buildings if anyone in the community is interested in reviewing the information.”

The vote will be held from noon to 9 p.m., Nov. 4 in the Board of Education room at the Hannibal High School.

Any questions about the project can be directed to DiFabio or Henner at
564-7900. Information about the vote is also available on the district Web site at www.hannibalcsd.org.