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Potsdam Central officials pitching capital project to voters

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POTSDAM — Potsdam Central School officials are hitting the road in an effort to sell an $18 million capital project plan that will be on the ballot Dec. 12.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said he had met with faculty and staff at the district’s three school buildings, and he spent time Wednesday morning with a group of senior citizens at Mayfield Apartments.

He said over the next three weeks he has appearances scheduled at meetings of the Booster Club, PTA, Lions Club and Rotary Club, as well as a visit with residents at Midtown Apartments.

“We want to get the word out so everybody has the appropriate information to make an informed vote,” Mr. Brady said.

A tour of the district’s buildings will be held Nov. 26, and a public hearing on the proposed project is scheduled for Dec. 3.

The project calls for $10.6 million worth of work at Potsdam High School, $3 million at A.A. Kingston Middle School, $1.3 million at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School and $1.3 million at the bus garage and for a fire alarm system upgrade.

The district is showcasing some of its crumbling infrastructure during its tour stops and on the district website. Mr. Brady said the photographs detail the crumbling exterior in the front area of the high school building, that building’s 83-year-old heating system, 1957-era refrigerators and parking lots built in 1972.

“The list goes on and on,” he said, citing duct tape on the floors of second-grade classrooms and the high school auditorium.

He said the work is focused on health, safety and energy efficiency improvements.

“Much of this project is about heating and lighting long-term savings. We feel this will help reduce our costs,” Mr. Brady said.

While the district has faced serious budget challenges in recent years, Mr. Brady said, this is the right time to be moving forward with the capital project. “The capital reserve fund, along with the retirement of past capital debt, will cover the local share of this project. Taxpayers will see no tax impact for this project,” he said.

Mr. Brady said 86 percent of the cost of the work will be paid for through state aid, with the remaining 14 percent being covered by the $885,000 allocation from the district’s capital reserve fund and the $2.5 million that will replace debt that is being paid off from a previous project.

“There would be no state aid if we did this within our own budget. We feel now is the prudent time for this project with this debt coming off, and we are also aware the governor has been proposing changing the building aid formula, which would likely mean a reduction from the 86 percent we currently receive,” he said.

He also suggested the infrastructure improvements could benefit Potsdam Central as talk increases down the road about possible mergers and consolidations of school districts.

“Those districts that have taken care of their schools will be in a better position to be receivers in this type of environment,” Mr. Brady said.

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