Moravia BOE 10-10-18

Moravia Central School District Superintendent John Birmingham speaks during a board of education meeting Oct. 10.

Residents in two Cayuga County school districts will decide on school project proposals this week, with neither expected to increase taxes.

The first vote, on Tuesday, involves the Cato-Meridian Central School District's energy performance contract for $2.4 million in upgrades to various systems in the district. The proposal asks whether district residents want the state to pay an additional 10 percent in aid toward the cost of the improvements. That extra 10 percent, or $240,000, can be used as an incentive through the state if voters approve it, with the state being obligated to honor that vote. The school district does not need a vote for the upgrades themselves to go forward.

The project includes improvements to insulation and lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the district's elementary school, middle school and high school. The improvements are estimated to save about $144,000 annually for the district, with the savings monitored by the state Education Department. The initiative, which is not expected to increase local taxes, is meant to help the district run school buildings more efficiently while reducing the facilities' collective carbon footprint, according to a press release.

District Superintendent Terry Ward said the district will bond for the local share of the cost, but the whole bond will be paid through savings in energy costs over the next 15 years. State aid is set to cover 78 percent of the cost, but that would come to 88 percent if the community votes for that extra 10 percent. The Syracuse office of the John W. Danforth Co. will handle the upgrades.

A $6.5 million capital improvement project that the community approved last year is separate from the improvements that would fall under the energy contract. Ward said certain improvements that were originally in the capital project will now be covered by the energy contract, freeing up $642,000 to be directed to security and safety upgrades in the buildings under the capital project. Electronic classroom doors, window film and electronic interior doors to hallways would be included in the capital project.

Ward said the community has been supportive of the energy contract project. He believes the energy project making funds available for security upgrades in the capital project is one of the biggest reasons why people have been supportive.

"There should be no reason we would not want the extra $240,000 in state aid on this project," Ward said via email.

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Another local district's vote, on Wednesday, is for the first phase of a proposed 15-year, three-phase capital project in the Moravia Central School District. The first phase is set to cost $11.5 million, with $10 million in building improvements and a $1.5 million energy performance contract.

If the first phase is approved, bidding with contractors would start in fall 2019 with an eye to start construction by spring or summer 2020 in the hopes of finishing the phase by late 2020 or early 2021.

The first phase would encompass updating all district lighting to LED; replacing interior and exterior doors; upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; asbestos abatement in different spots and replacing some corridor lockers, ceilings and the middle school gymnasium, according to the district's website page explaining the capital project. Safety would be also a primary element of the project, with secured entrances making outside visitors unable to reach student areas without running into additional security.

A $1.5 million energy performance contract would run simultaneously with the first phase of the project to ensure the project's elements are cost efficient and energy effective. The energy contract is set to include lighting controls with dimming capabilities, automated electronic controls and improved insulation and sealing.

The project is set to have no tax impact. The district has said it would cover the costs of the project with a combination of state aid and reserves.

The project up for a vote this week is the first of three phases in a plan to complete $35 million in work on district facilities. District officials have previously said there's a $10 million to $11 million estimate for phase two and $15 million for phase three.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.