To the Editor:
On Dec. 12, the Potsdam community will have the opportunity to vote on an $18 million capital improvement project which will bring much needed upgrades to our school district. These renovations include health, safety, and energy efficiency related items such as heating, lighting, roofing, insulation and siding at the high school, parking lots, fire alarm system, and auditorium improvements. Listed below are key factors to consider:
• 86 percent of the project will be paid for by the state. Currently, our taxpayers pay for the building projects of other school districts through their state taxes. This time the money will be coming our way and will not only benefit us through better facilities but will also provide a short term gain for our local economy in terms of construction related jobs and expenditures.
• There will be no increase in taxes to pay for this project. The 14 percent local share or approximately $2.5 million will be covered by retiring capital debt in our existing budget and through a capital reserve the Board of Education has set aside over time for a future project.
• Our architect has estimated that energy savings due to improvements in heating, lighting, roofing and other areas will save the District approximately $775,000 over the next 15 years. This includes rebates from NYSERDA which rewards districts for renovations that improve energy efficiency. In tough fiscal times, such savings are essential as we look to conserve every dollar for the education of our students.
• The funding of this project will not impact any budget deficit the District may have as we prepare for next year. State aid for building projects is separate from aid to our operations. While the state has drastically reduced its funding to our programs it has continued aiding capital projects at normal rates. On the local side, using the funds freed up from paying down the past capital debt will have little impact on our budget but they will go a long way toward leveraging state dollars to improve our facilities.
• If we do not act now there is a risk that the state funding formula for capital projects could turn less favorable or some of the more critically needed items will require fixing in the immediate future without state dollars to support them. This could divert vital funds from our educational program and lead to higher taxes to pay for them.
There is no question that we live in tough times and due to the cutting of state funds our district has endured much over these last five years. But if Potsdam Central School is to continue to be a beacon of high quality education and provide a strong future for our succeeding generations of children, we need to maintain our facilities to the best possible standard. I hope to see all of you on Dec. 12.
Potsdam Central School District Superintendent