Residents within Norwood-Norfolk Central School District will have the opportunity to cast ballots Oct. 22 on a proposed capital improvement project.
The district intends to upgrade its fire alarm system. It also wants to replace corridor ceilings, widen the bus garage opening, enhance the parking lot, renovate the auditorium and put new sinks into elementary classrooms.
The costs of all its planned projects total more than $9.1 million. That’s a lot of money for a school district to spend. Some residents may be leery of authorizing such expenditures.
But Superintendent James Cruikshank believes people have misperceptions about how these projects will be funded. According to a story published Thursday by the Watertown Daily Times, he said last week that spending these funds won’t adversely affect district taxes.
“We’re still looking at a negative impact on taxes. There’s no impact on taxes with our 98 percent aid rate, plus our existing capital fund, now over $1 million,” Mr. Cruikshank said during a special board of education meeting Sept. 3. “That all comes out very, very nice for our taxpayers. With a 98 percent aid rate, that’s optimal for Norwood-Norfolk.”
The money for these projects will come from a state account that funds capital improvements for school districts, Mr. Cruikshank explained.
“A lot of people kind of misunderstand how state aid on capital projects works. They say if you’re getting state aid, that comes from taxes. They’re correct, it does,” he said. “But that fund is there in the state. We’re paying into it. There are millions and millions of dollars of projects going on all the time throughout the state. The last thing the state wants to have happen is their 700-plus school districts to run into poorly maintained buildings, so they fully fund that line item.”
Members of the Norwood-Norfolk Central School District Board of Education will discuss the project at their next meeting on Oct. 15.
“The district will be using the entire balance of its capital reserve fund, $1.04 million, on the project,” according to the story. “They’ll also be asking voters for authorization to create a new 10-year capital reserve fund of $1.5 million to use for future projects.”
Norwood-Norfolk Central School District is not the only district planning capital improvements in Northern New York.
“While Norwood-Norfolk prepares for the capital project vote, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that four north country school districts have been awarded $28.7 million for capital projects in their district. The Ogdensburg City School District will receive $16.7 million; Harrisville Central School District will receive $5.7 million; Lisbon Central School District will receive $3.9 million; and Thousand Islands Central School District will receive $2.4 million. They were among the 54 school districts across the state that received a total of $482.4 million in low-cost, tax-exempt bonds from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York,” the story reported. “Projects benefitting from the issuance include but are not limited to: fire, security, and air quality systems upgrades; interior and exterior renovations at numerous facilities including several classroom additions; athletic field improvements; and technology updates to promote innovation and collaboration. Since the inception of the program in 2002, DASNY has issued 100 separate series of bonds on behalf of more than 200 school districts statewide in an aggregate par amount of more than $6.1 billion.”
Residents should have confidence that the items listed by Norwood-Norfolk are essential upgrades and that their taxes won’t be affected. It’s good that the district is being proactive with these needs, and we urge voters to approve this referendum measure next month.