Fulton Schools May Tackle One More Building Project

The Fulton City School District may ask taxpayers to approve another building project this Fall, just a few months into the current one.

The project would spend about $3.75 million and would take care of issues that were pulled out of the current $26 million construction project to keep it on budget.

Very little or none of the cost will be borne by taxpayers, district officials say.

Instead, the project is being crafted to take advantage of $2.78 million in EXCEL aid not used on the current project.  EXCEL aid is special aid from the state that pays the full cost of certain types of improvements, with no local taxpayer match needed.  The district would have to borrow the remaining cost — about $1 million — but it would be paid back through routine state aid for buildings.

There’s “very, very little chance of a local share” of the costs, said Superintendent Bill Lynch.

The project would tackle four areas:

Roof repairs at Fulton Jr. High and the Fairgrieve Elementary School cafetorium, which were in the $26 million renovation project but removed because of the cost;

Replacing the two boilers at G. Ray Bodley High School that the district says date to 1965.  They were not in the $26 million renovation project approved in early 2007, but “they’ve become much more of a concern for us,” said Lynch, because of the growing need for maintenance and repairs;

Technology infrastructure improvements, including wiring for high-speed network access at the Jr. High. and Volney, Granby and Lanigan Elementary Schools, along with upgrading electrical service at the Jr. High;

And security improvements, such as cameras, better lighting, motion sensors and door access controls, that were in the $26 million project but removed due to cost.

“It’s pretty dry stuff, but it’s pretty important stuff,” said Kathy Nichols, the district’s Director of Finance.

The project would be presented as two propositions.  One would be for the boilers, technology infrastructure and security improvements.  It would use only EXCEL funds.  The other proposition would be for the roofs.  It would use the $22,000 of EXCEL money remaining for the district along with the approximately $1 million in borrowing.

Lynch said much of the work, if approved by voters this Fall, could be done in the summer of 2010, when a large portion of the other project’s work also will be underway.

“This is what the community will want to know,” said Board of Education member Robbin Griffin. “‘Why didn’t you do this before?'”

“$23.6 million is a lot of money but there were a lot of things we wanted to do with that money,” said Lynch.  “Boilers, for example, weren’t even on that list.”

“They weren’t ignored or missed,” said Nichols.  “Priorities were set.”

Also, the district had hit its debt limit when it asked voters to approve the $23.6 million project in 2007.  Small city schools are unlike large city schools or rural schools because the state imposes a debt limit on them.  With some older debt paid down, the district has some room to borrow, and some incentive to borrow now.

“The EXCEL aid money will be gone, perhaps by Fall,” said Lynch.

“EXCEL is just allowing us to take the local taxpayer share off the table,” said Griffin.

“My concern would be selling this to the public.  It’s got to be spelled out for them,” said board member Dan Pawlewicz. “We may have only one shot at this.”

“It would be nice to try,” said Nichols.  “We’d be criticized if we didn’t.”

“You’re waiting 10 years” to do these things otherwise, said Lynch.

The board will discuss the project in more detail at its August meeting and may aim for a vote in October or November.

1 Comment

  1. It concerns me that school district management did not have these items on the priority list for the $26MM but opted instead to spend on the athletic complex… artificial turf, new track, lights, bleachers, lockers, etc. Since when are athletic facilities more important than roofs, boilers, lights, etc.

    Multiply Fulton’s list by the number of school districts in NY and around the country who are doing the same thing. It all comes out of our tax dollars people!! It is not free money. Let’s spend on the “need to haves” and cut back the “want to haves”.

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