School Vote (copy)

A voter fills out a ballot at Owasco Elementary School concerning the Auburn school budget, special propositions and board candidates in May 2018.

There's no denying that the number looks big: $43.7 million.

The proposed scope of repairs, renovations and upgrades in the Auburn Enlarged City School District capital project going before voters on Tuesday is larger than any we've seen in the Cayuga County area. 

But as they consider the merits of the proposal, voters need to inform themselves about what the proposed work would accomplish. If they go through the scores of items within the two-phase project, it would be hard to find anything that shouldn't be done.

And because of how New York state funds capital improvement, this project proposal is the most cost-effective way for Auburn to get the needed work done. New York state funds capital improvement work that is approved by voters to the tune of roughly 85 cents on the dollar. If Auburn were to do all of this work in a piecemeal fashion through its year-to-year operating budget, those state dollars wouldn't be available. And the tax levy would be hit hard.

As it stands, Auburn's capital project proposal would carry a 1.9-percent tax levy increase for property owners within the district's boundaries. That's not inconsequential, but it's also not an impossible burden. For a $100,000 home, that equates to an additional $36 per year. We say that's a reasonable cost for making sure our children's school buildings and facilities provide a healthy and safe environment for learning and growing for the next decade or more.

When Auburn first began unveiling specifics of this proposal several months ago, we expressed concern that the price tag, no matter how well-justified, could be too much for voters to swallow. But as we dug into the work on this proposal that started more than three years ago, it became clear that the district has worked diligently to get the most out of the project for the least amount of direct taxpayer investment. The original project scope, stemming from a state-required building condition survey, was at $100 million. Officials knew they needed to get it down to a level that would keep the tax levy impact below 2 percent, and they put in the effort to get that done.

We support the project, and we urge district voters to do the same on Tuesday.

The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer. 

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