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No cost referendum on Feb. 6 would complete long-range facilities project

As the district celebrates the opening of two new schools as part of its ongoing Facilities Improvement Project it is planning a $19  million referendum for Feb. 6, 2007 that carries no anticipated cost to city taxpayers and would enable renovations to Arbor Hill Community Elementary School, Giffen Memorial Elementary School, and Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST).


Highlights of the Feb. 6 referendum

  • Date: Feb. 6, 2007, noon to 9 p.m.

  • Amount: $19 million (which will enable $32 million of work)

  • Cost to taxpayers: No expected tax impact

  • Schools to be renovated: Arbor Hill, Giffen and TOAST

  • Renovations: The work envisioned will render all three schools safer, more comfortable and modern learning environments. The work includes:

    • Improved climate control systems at all three schools

    • Electrical upgrades to accomodate modern technology at all three schools

    • Handicapped accessibility at all three schools

    • Replacement of exterior envelope (walls, windows, doors and decks) wherever necessary to eliminate water leakage at Arbor Hill

    • A new bus loop and site improvements at Giffen

The proposed work would ensure the school buildings are safe and modern environments that support 21st Century learning. The work would also fulfill the vision laid out by the 2001 facilities plan.


With the opening of Pine Hills Elementary School and Delaware Community School earlier this month, nine schools have been significantly renovated or newly constructed as part of the facilities project. Work for major renovations to William S. Hackett Middle School and School 19 is also underway.

If voters support the referendum, $32 million total will be spent to renovate Arbor Hill, Giffen and TOAST at No cost to taxpayers beyond what voters have already committed to the $185.2 million project.


New state aid

Arbor Hill, Giffen and TOAST are the three schools in the Facilities Improvement Project for which work plans have not been finalized. A total of $13 million in unspent funds and savings remains from that project -- not enough to fund the work proposed for the three schools due to rapidly increasing construction costs and modifications to the plan to meet the district's priorities as they have evolved.


However, thanks to a new, and possibly one-time form of state building aid known as EXCEL (Expanding Children's Education and Learning), the district estimates it can stretch that $13 million into the $32 million it can invest in the three buildings without any additional tax impact. The district is eligible for $7.8 million in EXCEL Aid.


Typically, school building projects are paid for through traditional state building aid and financing by local taxpayers known as the "local share." The $7.8 million in EXCEL Aid and $13 million in remaining funds from the existing project will cover the local share. Traditional state building aid will cover an additional $11.2 million.]


So, the $32 million will come from three sources:

  • $7.8 million: State EXCEL Aid

  • $11.2 million: Traditional state building aid

  • $13 million: Remaining funds from the existing facilities project

The referendum is required to give the district permission to spend $19 million more than the $185.2 million that voters have already approved for the facilities project. It is also required to give the district permission to borrow up to $19 million should there be a delay in state aid reimbursements.


"This EXCEL Aid offers the perfect opportunity to realize the promise of the Facilities Improvement Project," Superintendent Eva Joseph said. "Modernizing the buildings will result in improved learning environments. and, because we do not know how long the EXCEL Aid will be available, we are pleased to be at a stage in our facilities planning where we can present this scenario to our voters."



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