LOCKPORT – When residents of the City of Lockport go to the polls May 21 to vote on next year’s school budget, they also will be asked to approve a $22.1 million capital improvement project that includes building renovations, technology upgrades and security enhancements.
The proposed project will not use taxpayer dollars, said Deborah Coder, assistant superintendent for finance. State building aid and about $3.1 million from the district’s capital reserve account will fund the project detailed at Wednesday’s public budget hearing.
The security enhancement portion of the project will be fully reimbursed by the state, said Thomas Fiegl, trustee and chairman of the facilities committee. Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley emphasized its importance.
“Our No. 1 priority in our district is to keep our schools safe,” Bradley said. Security systems at district buildings were evaluated by an outside agency following the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and the assessment alarmed board members, said Fiegl.
“We thought we were on the right track, but when we looked at this evaluation, we had to go further,” he said. “If you go to our schools and look, you’ll see an extreme number of doors that have to be covered. How do you do that? You do that with cameras.
“If we get this money, if the proposition goes through, we will be reconfiguring all our entrances to all our school buildings. We will be upgrading our camera locations and our intrusion detection. We think we have a good plan. It’s just a matter of getting the money to put it into effect.”
Technology upgrades will include a new wireless network to replace the district’s nearly two-decade-old network.
“The old system is simply not robust enough to handle the number of users or the demands that are required,” said Robert LiPuma, director of technology.
LiPuma said the current network is not prepared to handle online state testing coming in two years, and it crashed earlier this year when the high school attempted a bring-your-own device program.
Most of the building upgrades were recommended by a state-mandated building condition survey conducted in 2010. Some improvements were addressed in last year’s $18.9 million project. This year’s upgrades will focus on energy efficiency, health, safety, handicap accessibility, aesthetic and structural repairs.
Elementary school kitchens will be enhanced so that each school can prepare its own meals. Currently, meals are prepared at Roy B. Kelley Elementary School and transported around the district.
Construction work will improve vehicular and pedestrian access and traffic control at Roy B. Kelley, where additional pupils will attend next year due to the closing of Washington Hunt Elementary, and also include sidewalk repairs at John Pound Early Childhood Center.
The district’s $83 million budget would will raise the property tax levy by 2 percent. The proposed budget increases spending by 3.96 percent, mostly to cover pupil transportation, health care, workers’ compensation, and pension costs.
The tax levy increase is less than half of Lockport’s tax cap, Coder said, and will equate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.