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NNCS superintendent says timing is right for capital project

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School Superintendent James M. Cruikshank says that, based on what they’ve been told, a proposed $13.5 million capital project that will be put up for vote on Wednesday will have no impact on taxes.

That’s the word from Fiscal Advisors and Marketing, Inc., a group that is assisting the district with all the financial aspects of the project.

“We’ve had an outside group figure the taxes associated with this project. A best case-scenario would be an average of $9,564 per year for 15 years of additional taxes. However, we estimate a savings in electricity and gas of $27,000 per year for 15 years,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The worst-case scenario would translate to just over $143,000 of additional taxes, but Mr. Cruikshank said that’s at a 3.25 percent interest rate, which he said it likely won’t be.

“At 3.15 (percent) or less, it’s zero (impact) on the taxpayer Right now it’s at 2.75 (percent). That’s why we’re confident when we go out, there won’t be any impact on taxes. Our savings on utilities will overcome any worst-case scenario,” he said.

As part of the project, district officials are predicting energy savings through a number of initiatives, including the replacement of some exterior doors and windows, replacement of a steam heating system that’s more than 50 years old, replacement of an emergency generator with efficient natural gas and an upgrading of the energy management system to give district officials more control over energy usage.

They’re estimating that, by addressing their energy consumption through the project, they will see an estimated net savings in utilities of $405,000 for 15 years.

“In today’s dollar, with what we paid this year, we could see a 10 percent savings in utilities. We don’t have anything that’s energy-efficient right now,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

District officials have prioritized items for the $13.5 million project into three categories. The top priority category addresses building code and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance. That includes asbestos abatement, elevator upgrades, an air handler in the elementary boiler room, CO2 sensors in large gathering areas, masonry repairs, addition to the bus maintenance area, code corrections in various stairwells and replacement of the high school gym bleacher.

The second priority category is to replace some windows and doors, as well as the antiquated steam heating system and various air handlers and exhaust and ventilators. There would also be an upgrade to the lighting and electrical, technology network and VOIP, and resurfacing of the track.

The final category calls for the replacement of obsolete plumbing, flooring and stage curtains, improvement of the sound & lighting system in the auditorium, sound proofing in the music rooms, installation of a loading dock life table, upgrading of auditorium seating, an improved fire alarm system, replacement of the emergency generator and improvements to the parking areas.

While the project cost is $13.5 million, Mr. Cruikshank said they have more than $1 million in a capital reserve fund that they’ll use with voter approval.

“Our proposition will be pretty straightforward. We’re asking for permission to go ahead with the project and use the capital reserve fund. It’s one quick yea or nay,” he said.

He said the timing is right for a capital project.

“It’s necessary. Just like in your own home, routine maintenance needs to be done. However, the operational budget should not be confused with any capital improvement projects. The funding for capital projects is not connected in any way to the operational budget. Capital money cannot be used for operational budgets,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

He said the state sets aside funding specifically for capital projects.

“A lot of people don’t understand the state aid process. This fund was established by New York state over 30 years ago. Our state taxes keep it funded. It’s time that our state tax dollars were used in Northern New York,” he said.

The district has an aid rate of 96.4 percent for capital projects, meaning they’ll receive more than 96 cents back on every dollar spent.

“We put a tax levy out there to accommodate our needs. We have to keep our facility running. If we don’t have this capital project and something goes up, it’s a risk. You have to pay for it out of your reserve. Just changing the heating system over to the new one would be more than what our capital reserve is,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

“We just heard a local district had a bid opening last night and bids came back favorable, which means there’s a climate for competitive pricing for contractors. It’s the right timing. It’s the best time to use the money we’ve been paying all these years, and we have a little bit of reserves to help with the costs,” he said.

The vote will be held from 12 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the district board room.

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