ELLERY - With only one week before its capital project proposal goes to public vote, the Bemus Point Central School District is holding as many information sessions as it can before Dec. 12.
On Tuesday, the district hosted a public hearing at the Maple Grove High School cafeteria for a handful of community members. According to Michael Mansfield, district superintendent, the district is attempting to be as transparent as possible in making sure residents know exactly what it is they're voting on.
The two-phase, $16.4 million proposal looks to address renovations, upgrades and modifications in several areas at Maple Grove, Bemus Point Elementary and the bus garage.
The first part of the project, referred to as "Proposition One," entails numerous modifications to each of the three district buildings within the areas of health and safety, renovations and maintenance. Proposition One is estimated to cost a total of $8.4 million, and is said to result in no tax increase. This will be possible by replacing the expiring debt from the district's last major capital projects in 1994 and 1999, respectively.
The second part of the project, Proposition Two, will only involve the Maple Grove and elementary school buildings - with the biggest overhaul being in the form of an upgrade to the entire lockdown access security system. Proposition Two is estimated to cost slightly more than $8 million, with the borrowing of the money taking place during the 2015-16 school year and the first payment budgeted for 2016-17. The 2016-17 budget then would reflect an estimated local share of $225,000, and an estimated tax levy increase of 2.86 percent, or 42 cents per $1,000 assessed value.
The project is also unique in that both parts must be voted on separately, as Proposition Two is contingent on the approval of Proposition One.
"It's not an either-or situation," Mansfield said during a public hearing in September. "Proposition One stands alone. That has to pass before you even talk about Proposition Two, which is in addition to (Proposition One). So in the vote, when we set this up and have the propositions out, you have to vote on both. If you didn't want either, you have to vote no for Proposition One and no for Proposition Two or your ballot doesn't count. If they're both approved, then we can plan the money and projects accordingly."
Although little has changed in terms of the project's line items since September, Mansfield said community feedback indicated that confusion surrounding the financial aspect of the project needed clearing up.
"The basic foundation (of the project) is the same as it was in September," Mansfield said. "But, after September, there were questions that the community had, and we thought we needed to clarify what the financial impact really is."
According to a presentation given by Charity Mucha, the district's business manager, the timing of the project proposal makes economic sense for the district. She said the district's total net debt service amount will decrease by $227,517 as a result of having paid off the remaining debt from the aforementioned prior capital project. This would result in a -1.55 percent cap in the tax levy if the district were not to pass the new project and keep the debt service at a more stable level.
If that were to happen, Mansfield said the district would be in dire straits on multiple fronts.
"Without fixing anything, our cap would also be negative," Mansfield said. "So we'd have to hope that our (2014-15) budget failed so we could ask for more money in a contingency budget. So we're just trying to level things out, fix the major things and set ourselves up to be viable for the next 15 to 20 years."
Mucha's reported also indicated that if Proposition One were to pass and Proposition Two were to fail, the district's tax levy cap for next year would be 1.31 percent. The cap would be 1.33 percent if both propositions are passed.
The next information sessions will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the Maple Grove cafeteria during the district's Board of Education meeting, and at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bemus Point Elementary. The vote will be held from 12-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the Bemus Point Elementary library.
For information regarding the proposed project, visit the district website at www.bemusptcsd.org and click the "Capital Project" tab.