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Revote On Capital Project Comes With Board Guarantee: No Local Expense

Submitted by the Hannibal Central School District

HANNIBAL, NY – The Hannibal Board of Education has announced its decision to put the district’s proposed capital project up for a second vote.

The $26.9 million capital project was defeated at the polls by 31 votes this month. At the close of polls, the project was defeated 455-424. Without support from the public, the district was unable to use $1,298,070 in Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) Aid that was awarded during the 2006-07 state funding cycle.

The board met Monday evening to discuss the project and its options. Ultimately, the members decided that the project should be put up for a vote identical to the way it was proposed earlier this month with one substantial difference.

“Board member Fred Patane offered a resolution that guarantees the project will come with no local share,” Superintendent Michael DiFabio said. “The resolution was accepted and the board voted to put the project up as is for a second public referendum.”

The vote will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Jan. 21, 2009.

Board president Donna Blake said that the resolution was offered as a way to clear up any confusion and satisfy uncertainty the public may have about state funding for the project.

“When the project was defeated the first time, the public sent a clear message that it was not comfortable with the potential that state aid could fall through and that the cost of this project could fall in our laps,” Blake said. “No matter how many times we said that the project was coming at no cost to local taxpayers, there was still uncertainty.

“By passing this resolution, we are hopeful that the public concern will be put to rest,” Blake added. “We are saying that no matter what happens with the state budget, our taxpayers will not fund any part of this project with local money.”

The resolution requires the district to redesign its efforts in the event that state aid for the project was affected, according to Hannibal Business Administrator Nancy Henner.

“This resolution means that there will be no local effort, period,” Henner said. “If the funding stream changed, the project will be modified to make sure that taxpayers do not have to pick up any expense.”

If the funding stream stays as predicted, the district will reap the benefits of $26.9 million in state money, DiFabio said.

“Our district has limited revenue sources that we can use for capital projects,” DiFabio explained. “It boils down to state aid or local taxes.

“Our project was built to tap EXCEL aid and our 98 percent state reimbursement rate on capital projects,” DiFabio said. “Because EXCEL aid requires the support of the community, we can’t use that funding stream without consent of the voters. With the public’s support, we will be able to deliver on a multi-million dollar project that is funded entirely through state support.”

The capital project was developed as a facilities improvement plan to address a list of priorities primarily regarding the health and safety of the students and staff, disability-access expansions, energy-saving renovations, and security upgrades in all three school buildings.

“The items in the project are based almost entirely on district needs,” DiFabio said. “If we don’t tap this one-time funding source, we will still have to tackle most of these items. The difference is that we would have to rely on our taxpayers to pay for them.”

Patane abstained from the decision to put the project up for a second vote. Board member Matthew Henderson voted against the decision.

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