The Orchard Park School Board is eyeing a $24.3 million capital project, with the bulk of it addressing health and safety needs in buildings districtwide, along with a complete renovation of the middle school auditorium.
The district Tuesday disclosed a committee proposal to the board, calling for a $22.5 million base facilities project that would be contained in a proposition separate from a $1.8 million proposition to cover work in the aging middle school auditorium. Together, they total $24.3 million.
Both proposals may be voted on by the board as early as Sept. 23, with a public referendum tentatively considered for Nov. 18 to secure voter approval to borrow money for the project. The primary proposition of $22.5 million would have to be approved by taxpayers in order for the auditorium renovations at the middle school to go forward, school officials said.
A detailed list of numerous health and safety upgrades and improvements was presented to the board after a nine-month study by the board’s Planning Committee based on a 2010 building condition survey identifying $43 million in needed work in 2014 dollars. The committee prioritized the list, much of it addressing roofs at the end of their lives, in order to break it into a smaller project that is viewed as the first step in a long-range facilities improvement plan. Already, the district has two future projects in mind with possible project votes for 2019-20 and 2023.
“The items are must-do that really cannot wait for another five years,” said Jeffrey R. Petrus, assistant superintendent for business. “We’re trying to be proactive.”
District officials said they knew that all the necessary improvements should be done now, but were mindful of trying to balance that against what taxpayers could best handle at one time. The district’s last large renovation project of $24 million was in 2007 and focused on the high school. The projected tax impact of the $22.5 million proposition would translate into a $17 annual increase in taxes on a home assessed at $100,000.
The district plans to borrow the full amount of the project and pay for it through a 15-year serial bond. State building aid would cover 70 percent of the cost, while the district would also use $1.25 million from a reserve for debt and $300,000 from a capital reserve fund. Property taxes would cover about 25 percent of the total project.
“We seem to badly, badly need this project,” said board member Elizabeth D. Quinlan. “… The condition of the buildings are an embarrassment in the community.”
Aside from health and safety improvements, other work is tied to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title IX for sports. Even though it is structured in a separate proposition, district officials emphasized that the middle school auditorium has had no major renovations in more than 60 years.
Key items at the high school include replacing single-pane windows in the original portion of the school, dating from 1959; replacement of track and tennis courts; heating, ventilation upgrades and ADA improvements. Softball fields also would be relocated and improved, along with renovations to the storage building and concession stands, sidewalk replacement, and emergency lighting and temperature-control upgrades.