Why do we need a Capital Project to improve our music facilities?
Student enrollment in the district’s award-winning music program has outgrown the designated music space. East High, which opened 43 years ago in 1975, is the ‘newest’ of the three high schools. North High opened in 1968, marking its 50th anniversary this year, while South High is approaching 70 years on Main Street, opening in 1949. The original space allocated for music education at each school remains the same today. For example, the High School Orchestra Program has grown from a single, district-wide orchestra to two orchestras at each high school. None of Williamsville’s three high schools was designed to accommodate a 80+ musician orchestra. Currently, there is inadequate music classroom space; performance venues to accommodate large groups and productions are lacking; acoustical properties, particularly in teaching areas, are sub-par; secure storage space is insufficient.
How is it possible to invest $36.6 million in school facilities without raising taxes?
The financial plan for the project is comprised of three main parts. First, the Music Space Capital Project is planned strategically at a time when existing debt will be retired. This will enable the district to issue new debt with no additional tax levy because the payment amount is already included in the annual operating budget. The district’s long-standing level debt service plan works to maintain and preserve the community’s investment in its public schools without raising local taxes. The annual general fund budget will include $1,560,000 for payment of this project’s debt. Leveraging the use of these dollars before the issuance of new debt lowers the borrowing amount for the project and saves the district interest expense, which otherwise would amount to $630,000. Second, money would be used from existing reserve accounts that were established with voter approval in 2007 and 2014 for the specific purpose of funding future capital projects. Finally, this project qualifies for New York State building aid. The amount of aid would be based on final qualifying project expenses and is estimated to cover between 52 and 60 percent of the total project cost. State building aid is provided as reimbursement and would be received after work is completed. Building aid represents about 18.3 percent of the district’s total annual state aid amount and is key to supporting our educational programs. The aid reimbursement from this music project will begin in 2023, replacing the amount due to expire from prior projects. The aid generated by this project will allow the district to maintain instructional programming and brings our state tax dollars back into our community to improve our schools for our students.
What other facility issues will be addressed in this capital project?
The music space in each of our four middle schools would be renovated, including music classrooms and auditoriums. Lighting, sound, acoustics, and electrical needs will be addressed. Air conditioning would be installed in the middle school auditoriums. The project also addresses some major infrastructure needs including roof replacements at Transit Middle and Maple West Elementary schools, a new emergency generator at Williamsville South, and a new pool dehumidification unit at Williamsville East.
Why hold a public vote in December?
By law, district voters must approve the project before it can advance to the state level for approval. The required state review process could take several months. If the project is approved in December, it allows the district to submit plans to NYSED five months earlier than waiting until the May ballot. The earlier approval timeline results in a more advantageous bid date, allowing for a more competitive bidding process which, ultimately, could lower overall project costs. Also, even though the proposed project does not increase taxes, NYS law requires the district to hold a public vote because the financial plan calls for the issuance of new debt and the use of reserve funds, both of which must be approved by voters in order for the project to move forward.