F-F considers capital project for May ballot



FONDA -- Officials in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District are planning a multi-million dollar capital building project that could be on the ballot for the annual budget vote in May.

Costs are estimated between $17.8 million and $24.5 million. In the next month, officials and school board members will determine which projects are included in the resolution for a final cost.

Projects range from maintenance and upkeep to program enhancements and technology improvements. Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said they'll address health and safety issues, as well as provide students with facilities comparable to those that exist in the region.

"It's been a decade since we've done any major retrofit here," said Colucciello. "We haven't addressed issues of health and safety, or program improvements for a considerable length of time, and it's really time to do this."

The district receives 83 percent of state aid on capital projects, which would pick up the lion's share of the costs, Colucciello said.

That ratio indicates an approximate $4 million local share for the highest projected cost, and about $3 million for the lesser amount. Use of the district's capital reserve funds will knock $1 million off the local share.

Colucciello said debt on past projects is coming to term, and yearly energy savings will result from proposed projects.

"Timing is everything. With state aid and retiring debt, the district can vastly improve facilities with little impact on the local taxpayer," Colucciello said.

District treasurer Carey Shultz said the $17.8 million project is what officials initially put together, and the $24.5 million project includes possible additions the buildings and grounds committee added after the fact.

The latter includes air conditioning for the entire district, a digital energy management system, and a track built above the current gym, Shultz said.

"The board of education is looking at what they feel the community can afford," Shultz said.

In February, a financial analysis will be undertaken, then an environmental impact assessment, and the board will be asked to authorize the resolution to appear on the May ballot, Shultz said.

Capital building projects are paid up front by school districts, and the state reimburses costs based on the aforementioned ratio. Shultz said the state takes about 18 months to begin reimbursing districts, so bond anticipation notes -- one year notes of short-term financing -- will be issued before the district takes out any bonds.

The district was in a considerable financial crisis a year ago; earlier this year, as much as $500,000 was cut mid-year to build up a depleted fund balance to avert cash-flow issues.

In the past five years, the district has eliminated 25 percent of its staff.

Colucciello says the district has been able to overcome those financial troubles -- its independent audit released in October indicated its fund balance increased from zero to $1 million.

"We were able to achieve fiscal solvency. We were close to the fiscal cliff, and we now have a fund balance, through the efforts of everyone, including teachers and staff. And, the community supported our last budget. All of these things got us back on strong fiscal ground," Colucciello said.

Shultz said the district will see a reduction of debt service next year of approximately $330,000. The next reduction will be in 2017.

Here's a look at some of the projects outlined in a presentation at the December board of education meeting:

To address health and safety needs:

* Abatement of hazardous materials, such as asbestos, lead, and PCBs.

* Replace non-rated, aluminum fire doors, upgrade fire alarm system and replace fire suppression system in the kitchen.

* Replace 40-year old electrical panels.

* Reconstruct deteriorated pavement in parking lots, roads and concrete on broken/heaving sidewalks, deteriorated stairs and foundation.

* Upgrade security system and panic door hardware.

* Resurface the track to reduce risk of injury.

* Replace grandstand seating and press box, because neither are reportedly up to building code.

Program enhancements:

* Auditorium upgrades, including stage light replacement and sound system replacement; upgrading band and choral rooms.

* Create a year-round community accessible indoor track/walking area to reduce wear and tear on the school floors, and alleviate a safety issue caused by track practice in the halls after school, officials said.

* Construction of a standard 94-foot basketball court, as the current is 84-feet.

* More ceiling height in the gym to better meet the needs of sports like volleyball.

* Standard fitness equipment in the weight room to be used by students and the community.

* Upgrade track/field with addition of two lanes, replacement of grass with turf to save money on field maintenance, correct drainage issues to alleviate flooding, wire electricity to scoreboards, and add lighting to the field.

Building upgrades and energy efficiency:

* District-wide air conditioning.

* Replacement of hot water heater with an independent water source.

* Replacement of 33 rooftop air handling units that are more than 25 years old, and considered beyond repair.

* Replace boilers with condensing units.

* Replace light fixtures with energy-efficient types, including motion sensors, which can save as much as $60,000 annually.

* Replace energy management system.

* Install pool cover to reduce heat loss and evaporation.

* Install solar panels on elementary building.

* Replace pool area windows to provide better insulation and bring up to code.

* Replace drinking fountains with electric water coolers that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

* Eliminate the natural gas powered electric generators installed 11 years ago. At the time, it was believed they would last 15 to 20 years. While they did save the district money, officials said with the increase in technological devices, they are wearing more quickly than expected. Due to uncertainty of the units, and costs to maintain them, officials are calling to go "back on the grid."

* Upgrade district media centers, replace technology, furniture, and instructional media.

* Construct a climate controlled server room.

* Improve power over ethernet switches.

* Install redundant backup supplies.

* Floor work throughout the buildings, such as replacement of gym floor, refinishing stage floor and replacing carpet runners in the auditorium.

* Locker room work, including ventilation and shower upgrades.

* Repair masonry throughout buildings.

* Paint and spackle interior walls.

* Replace ceiling tiles, fencing on fields, 50-year-old auditorium seating, and plumbing drainage for pool.

* Repair leaking and damaged roof.