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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

SRCS officials: Capital project’s second phase won’t impct taxes

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FORT COVINGTON – The Salmon River Central School District board of education voted 6-1 to accept the scope of phase two of a proposed capital project, which carries a price tag of approximately $36.6 million. The sole dissenting vote was board member Michael Sisto.

Roy McMaster, vice president of Capital Market Advisors, LLC, said if the district plays their cards right the project will have no tax impact and could be completely paid for by state aid. Christopher Crolius, owner of March Associates, the district’s architectural firm, said several items may not be covered. They include a Zamboni oil and water separator, a concrete slab to build a 5,600 square-foot storage building, and furniture and equipment for renovated classrooms. He estimates those items to cost $310,000.

“It’s manageable and in the end, the taxpayers get it for free. It’s like winning the lottery,” he said.

A spreadsheet that McMaster showed the board on Monday night says that combined building aid for phase one and phase two of the project will put the district $2,552,554 in the black by 2030.

This means there is no potential tax impact until 2018. School business executive Natascha Jock said if the district stores the excess money in a reserve fund leading up to that year, they will be able to use it to negate the project’s effect on taxes. The extra funds could also pay for items that Albany doesn’t cover.

“It’s going to be a management issue going forward before we can smooth out the bumps,” Mr. McMaster said. “The first time there’s potential tax impact – we expect to ameliorate that before we get there.”

Mr. McMaster said the state aid process is complex, at best. The district will need to borrow some money to get the work started because Albany will not pay until 18 months after the state education commissioner approves the job. Also, he noted that the building aid formula is calculated using pupil count from one year and property values from a different year.

“Everything is so distorted,” he said. “There’s no logic to it and that’s how the game is played.”

Some of the project’s main points include turning the high school gym into a two-level structure, which will include an elevated walking track and fitness center that will be available for community use.

Other renovations will include gutting and restructuring the elementary school. In the wake of the Newtown, Conn. school shooting, project planners are looking at having offices in the front and classrooms in the back. The project would also add a check-in system where a visitor would come into a vestibule through one set of doors, sign in with an official, and then be buzzed through a locked second set of doors. Asbestos tiles will be removed from older classrooms. The work would add an enclosed courtyard that would serve as a pre-K and kindergarten play area.

Taxpayers of the Salmon River school district will go to the polls on March 19 to vote on the project, along with selecting a new school board member.

Ms. Jock said anyone who lives in the school district can pick up a petition to run for the seat. They need to collect 25 signatures and turn the petition in by Feb. 19.

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