Tonawanda News

May 15, 2013

Tonawanda school capital project on pace

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Capital project managers told the City of Tonawanda school board at the body’s regular meeting Tuesday night that the construction of the district’s new football stadium is on schedule.

Contractors have begun underground electrical work and are installing the stone base for the field, as well as a drain and a new road. 

“That’s the roundabout where there will be drop-offs for sports,” Superintendent James Newton said. 

Gloria Ciminelli, of Pike Co., one of the companies overseeing the project, said the workers did encounter a brief setback after they incorrectly installed part of the drain. 

“We got them to take it out and put it back in,” she said. “So we are watching the quality of the work.”

The extra cost for the installation of the drain will come out of the contractor’s pockets, Ciminelli said. 

Brian Brady, of architectural firm Wendel, which is also overseeing the project, provided an update on the plans to renovate the choral and band rooms. The district originally planned to complete additions for the two rooms, but the bids for that portion of the project came in more than $600,000 over budget.

Brady then advised the board to revise its plans and approve renovating the rooms, instead — which would result in a dramatic cost savings. The board and the school’s music teachers agreed.

The renovations will include raising the roof of the band room and expanding the width of the choral room to provide more space and better acoustics. 

Brady said Tuesday that they have forwarded their plans to Pike Co., which will provide an estimate on the cost of the renovations by Monday. Thanks to the savings, the board will likely have about an extra $1 million to spend on technology and security improvements. 

“We will schedule a meeting between staff and our technology expert,” Brady said. “They can talk about what can be accomplished.” 

Administrator for Business and Financial Services Stephen Perry also led a budget hearing Tuesday night, ahead of the vote May 21. 

Residents will weigh in on the $29,858,602 budget for the 2013-2014 academic year, up from $29,541,451 budget for the current year. The spending increase amounts to 1.07 percent, compared to the 2.10 percent increase in consumer price index, Perry said. 

“That’s a very modest increase,” he said. 

While the spending increase may be modest, the amount being paid for by city taxpayers is increasing by 3.2 percent — from $10,892,593 in the current year to $11,241,156 for 2013-2014.

In laymans terms, if the budget is approved, the increase will result in a resident who owns a home worth $90,000 paying an additional $49.80 in taxes next year.

The increase is less than the state’s new property tax cap, which is set at a 2 percent increase before expenses such as pension conributions and capital expenses were figured in. The district could have increased taxes up to 4.56 percent once all the exclusions were tabulated.

In real dollars, the district budget spends $147,837 less than what the tax cap would have permitted.

About $1 million will be taken from the fund balance for this year’s budget — less than what was taken last year. Perry stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will attempt to protect the district from facing financial insolvency in future years, when it will face a dwindling fund balance. 

Under the budget, three full-time teaching positions will be cut. 

Perry also said that polling for the budget and school board race have changed, and voting will take place between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday in the Wellness Gym in Tonawanda High School. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley