East Aurora school officials aren’t letting budget worries stop them from planning a future capital project to address districtwide needs, possibly starting in the 2016-17 school year.
The administration and School Board said they need to start preparing to address items such as roof replacements, chimney work, enlarging and upgrading some classrooms at the Middle School, improving the district telephone system and focusing on lighting and technological needs.
The laundry list of items was long, though not yet spelled out in great detail, when the board last week first began to publicly mull a capital project for 2016-17. The district was not able to include a good amount of the work highlighted in its previous capital project.
News of the district planning a capital facilities project comes on the heels of the school administration announcing a nearly $950,000 budget gap for the 2013-14 school year.
But district officials indicated they have no choice. They said if East Aurora doesn’t do one large-scale project, other scenarios could include a smaller project and then a more district- wide project, or even dividing the work into three separate projects spread over several years.
Board President Daniel Brunson said that planning a project for the 2016-17 school year is appealing because the district will have paid off some bonded work by then.
“That is the year in which we could do a significant project without increasing taxes, because the high school work in the 1990s will be paid off,” he said.
District Business Manager Paul Blowers said he felt the district should move more quickly than that. “I don’t agree with waiting that long,” Blowers said, citing current issues with hot water tanks, roofs that need replacing, an outdated phone system and other needs throughout the district. “Some needs are immediate.”
Superintendent Brian D. Russ suggested the district might want to have a smaller project and then a separate, more “global, districtwide” one.
A third scenario had Blowers suggesting a $4.3 million project to address soon what he termed emergency needs. Then another $5 million project could be done a few years later, followed by a $3 million project a few years after that.
Brunson said he had hoped that if some of the issues could wait to be addressed, one large project could be bundled together without imposing a great tax burden. The district does have a repair reserve fund in place that it could tap, as well.
East Aurora completed a $14 million reconstruction project in 1998. In its latest move, the district recently completed a $24 million capital facilities project – approved by voters in 2007 – that led to an addition that doubled the square footage of Parkdale Elementary School and expanded the school to a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school from a kindergarten-through-second-grade school. The latter project also included renovations at the middle and high schools.
Board member Jessica Armbrust said the district may want to consider looking into energy performance as it plans a capital project.