F-F district eyes $24.5M project

FONDA – The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is preparing for a possible $24.5 million capital project.

In late November the idea of doing a capital project was brought to the district Board of Education’s attention. In a two-month span of time, the district has been busy making preparations for the proposed project.

District treasurer Carey Shultz said this would be the first capital project FFCS has had in 10 years.

Shultz explained in a Powerpoint presentation earlier this month the project would address health and safety needs, program enhancements, technology improvements, energy efficient solutions and maintenance.

The $24.5 million project could be paid for with only a slight increase in taxes, district officials said. State aid would refund the district between 83 and 90 percent of the overall cost of the project.

Shultz said the tax increase would be about 40 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Officials said several other school debts are nearly paid off, which also will free up some income.

Shultz said architects are calculating exact costs for the project and communication will begin with stakeholder groups in the district soon.

Fonda-Fultonville’s proposed capital project will be on the ballot in May, along with the district’s proposed budget.

The district’s health and safety needs include an upgraded fire alarm system and security system, the replacement of 40-year-old, antiquated electrical panels, the reconstruction of the school’s parking lots, sidewalks and concrete surfaces and the abatement of hazardous materials.

Program enhancements for the district’s performing arts and athletics also are being eyed.

The project would include the replacement of house and stage lights in the auditorium to more energy conservative bulbs. The auditorium’s 30-year-old sound system would be replaced so that performances will be heard better. Risers in the band and choral rooms would be removed to provide consistency in sound. Carpeting and metal ceiling would be replaced in the band and choral rooms to improve the acoustics, and acoustic panels would be added to provide better soundproofing.

The district is looking to build a year-round, community-accessible indoor track and walking area. The basketball court would be larger. The gymnasium’s ceiling height would increase to cater to sports like volleyball. The outdoor track would have two lanes added, and the grass field would be replaced with a turf field.

The project also calls for new district air conditioning, the installation of a pool cover, the replacement of 50-year-old drinking fountains with electric water coolers, going back to electric-powered generators instead of natural gas-powered generators, and improvements to the roof, fences, ceiling tiles and plumbing.

Shultz noted some people are concerned about where the money is coming from and why it’s being spent on a capital project instead of bringing back jobs that were cut in the last few years.

“I think there’s confusion sometimes,” he said. “People don’t realize how the state sets aside certain money for school districts. You can’t use building aid to add staffing. People get confused when they hear that we don’t have any money over here but we’ve got money for something else, so what’s the issue? We’ve cut 35 staff members in the last five years, and we’re saying that we don’t have the money to re-hire them.”

Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said this proposed project is necessary for the school district and he thinks it’s good that people are talking about it.

“There are people that are going to say you don’t need that, you should have done this, and that’s good healthy conversation,” Colucciello said. “At least we’re talking about doing something. We’re not doing this project for the kids here alone, we’re doing it for the next two generations. If you don’t pay now, you’re going to pay later. If you don’t do it now you’ll be making repairs in 10 years, the difference is we’ll be using our money instead … The state wanted these buildings, they’re responsible for education and that means the housing as well.”