Auburn schools hearing 12-11-18 1

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo speaks during a public hearing on the district's proposed capital project at the Auburn High School library Tuesday.

AUBURN — The public hearing for the Auburn Enlarged City School District's proposed multimillion-dollar capital project was presented largely to empty chairs Tuesday night.

No members of the public showed up at the start of the hearing in the Auburn High School library, while the district's board of education and a couple district employees were present. Seven people came to the hearing 15 minutes into Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo's presentation on the history, scope and potential financing of the possible project, which is set to not exceed $43.7 million. When Pirozzolo finished, he recapped the first half of the presentation to the people who missed it. When Pirozzolo asked if they had any questions, he was greeted with silence. 

The community is set to vote on the project Jan. 8, 2019. The project will have two phases, with a $28 million cost for the first phase and about $15 for the second. 

A 1.98-percent tax levy increase would be in effect for the duration of the project. If the project is approved, the district wants to open bidding from contractors by November or December 2019 and start construction by spring 2020. The second phase is estimated to start by 2023, with the district hoping to have it end by 2026. Seward Elementary had previously received a more secured entrance. Ninety-three to 95 percent of the project is eligible for state aid, and the district would get about 84 cents back from the state for every dollar spent within that eligibility.

Safety and security is the project's primary focus, with the middle school and all elementary schools, except Seward, getting secured entrances making outside visitors unable to reach student areas without hitting additional security. All elementary schools and the middle school are set for partial air conditioning and air relief, which is estimated to cost around $7 million. Other elements include various structural improvements to the buildings.

Resident Dennis Raso said after the hearing he liked the district's focus on security. Raso, who has three children in district schools, said he feels that while the $43.7 million amount may seem like a lot, when spent on several different buildings, "that's not that bad."

Raso believes people should focus less on the cost and more on the safety aspects.

"It's all for the safety of the kids and that should be on everybody's minds," he said.

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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.