Voting is today for Ellicottville school capital project

Ellicottville Central School District Superintendent Bob Miller points to several areas in the school parking lots that require replacement as part of the district’s proposed $8.4 million capital project. The public vote on the capital project will be held from 1 to 8 p.m. today in the elementary school foyer.

GREAT VALLEY — Residents of the Ellicottville Central School District will have the opportunity today to vote on a capital improvement project that seeks to tackle many areas in and around the school buildings in need of renovations and replacement work.

The roughly $8.4 million project would see numerous health, safety, accessibility and code compliance measures addressed inside the main K-12 building, around the outside of the campus and at the bus garage.

A positive vote from community residents would give the green light to begin the formal planning process for such a project, with submission to the state Department of Education for approval by late 2020 and construction expected to begin in the spring of 2021.

The primary reasons for the project come from a state building condition survey in 2015, Superintendent Bob Miller explained, which laid out several areas where safety and security concerns received top priority.

“Several items have reached a point where it’s just not practical or feasible or fiscally prudent to repair them. They’ve met their life,” he said Thursday at an information session for the public concerning the project. “We have to address those in order to provide a safe learning environment, ensure a productive learning environment and protect the investment the taxpayers have already made in the school.”

Of the project’s $8.4 million bill, about $4,450,000, or 53 percent, will come from state building aid funding, with the remaining 47 percent — about $3,950,000 — to be paid for through the local tax levy. On average, district homeowners could expect an estimated annual tax increase of about $17.76 per $100,000 of home value, Miller said.

“We will be making the final payment on a previous capital improvement project this June, and we will use those funds to offset the cost of the new capital project,” he added.

Among the highlights at the main building include public address system replacement, door hardware and exterior stair upgrades at the main entrance, emergency generator replacement and fire alarm system improvements, including visual indicators.

“On a nice spring day, we might have 100 kids on the playground, and they need some way to know that there’s something going on in here,” Miller said. “The safety cannot wait.”

For asset preservation and building integrity, the project would address a partial roof replacement, masonry restoration, main entrance terrazzo stair replacement, elementary gym floor replacement and kitchen and cafeteria renovations.

“The high school kitchen and cafeteria have not been upgraded since this building was built, which was in the 1960s,” Miller said.

Around the building, site improvements include high school and elementary parking lot replacement, bus loop asphalt replacement, parking lot light coverage and storm drainage improvements.

“The elementary parking lot needs to be rebuilt, and when we do all that, we need to really look at the drainage and get the drainage right and get it going in the right direction away from the building,” Miller said. Last fall, flooding from the elementary parking lot caused several thousand dollars in damage to the bottom floor of the elementary wing, displacing several classes.

During Thursday’s community meeting, a couple of district residents remarked on the project’s cost, showing concern for the reliance on state aid to cover most of the project. “There’s no guarantee on that, and that 53 percent is what really concerns me,” one said.

Miller said those figures are based on the best information they have at the time and recommendation from their financial planners.

Other concerns expressed Thursday include the replacement of a roof that had been repaired in 2005, the need for a new water well on campus and the need for a new, larger generator to power the main building.

“There’s so much more demand on the system than what there used to be,” Miller said. “There’s freezers, the doors are set up on electric relays … and new servers with so many computers and technology. We don’t want the servers to go down.”

Should the capital project vote fail Tuesday, the major groups involved in the planning process — the school board, administrators, architects, etc. — would meet to determine how to address the millions of dollars in repairs cited in the building conditions survey.

Miller said the critical issues would still need to be taken care of, except that without the benefit of state aid, the required work could be funded completely through the annual district budget, with local taxpayers bearing the full cost.

“When you combine several items into one project, it allows the district to spread those costs out over a number of years rather than try to tackle big costs within one fiscal year,” Miller said.

The public vote on the capital project will be held from 1 to 8 p.m. today in the elementary school foyer.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)