By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Voters will head to the polls Dec. 6 to determine the fate of a proposed $14.5 million capital improvement project in the Greenville Central School District.
District Superintendent Michael Bennett held the first of two question-and-answer sessions prior to the Nov. 14 meeting of the board of education. The second session will be tonight, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m., in the auditorium of Scott M. Ellis Elementary School on Route 32.
The project, slated at $14,480,000, includes improvements to all three schools in the district, with the bulk of the renovations slated for Scott Ellis Elementary School.
Through the use of capital reserve funds the district has on hand and state aid, the proposed project — which would include an $11 million bond issuance — is not expected to have any impact on the tax rate for local taxpayers, according to district officials.
“The state reimburses us 72 cents on the dollar for a voter-approved capital project, so the differential is being covered by the contribution from the capital reserve and also some fall-off from debt service,” said Chris DeCarlo of Bernard P. Donegan, Inc., the district’s bond consultant. “The state aid is covering the bond payments.”
The proposed project was developed through a review process conducted by the district’s Building Services Committee, including a state-mandated building survey, to identify the needs of the district.
“A building condition survey is done every five years,” Bennett said. “We spend a lot of money to keep our schools going and keep things up to speed, so that puts this process into motion. We are doing what we need to do to maintain our facilities and make sure we are doing what we need to do to spend money wisely and continue to keep up with the times.”
In addition to the building condition survey, the district also looks at curriculum needs, Bennett added.
“We gather input from our administrative leadership team, our faculty team, to really get an idea of where are some of those areas that we need to expand upon and work through,” he said.
The most recent capital project focused on other areas of the schools that needed work.
“In our last project, we did a lot of things with the fields. We got a great new athletic field. A lot of time and money went into that,” Bennett said. “Prior to that, a lot of money went into the facilities at the middle and high school, so it’s time to take a look at Ellis Elementary School. It’s a beautiful building, the architecture is gorgeous, but it’s old and it needs some attention.”
Under the proposed project, some of the improvements at the elementary school will be geared to safety.
“It’s an old building. When it was originally designed, it didn’t have elevators,” Bennett said. “Obviously with the Americans with Disabilities Act, we had to put in elevators some years ago, but in doing so, we had to create some corridors through classrooms, which is problematic when you talk about fire code, where we can’t lock some of those classroom doors. The last few years we have seen an increase in attention to school safety and making sure that we are keeping our students, teachers and faculty safe, and some of the areas we just can’t lock because of the way that we were able to put things through New York State Education [Department] years ago.”
The project also aims to expand several classrooms, including a pre-kindergarten class that is undersized and does not have in-class bathroom facilities for the school’s youngest students.
“One of the things that we are handicapped with is that bathrooms are not in that classroom currently, they are outside in the hallway, and those bathroom doors are heavy,” Bennett said. “These are little guys, 4-year-olds, trying to access in and out of that classroom, so we are looking to expand that classroom to add some restrooms in the area.”
Other classrooms would be renovated with new technology, new floors for rooms with linoleum tiles and refinished hardwood floors in those spaces, as well as additional in-class sinks and storage facilities.
“With health and safety, we all know that coming out of COVID, we need to keep kids clean and having access to sinks right in the classrooms really helps to facilitate good health and hygiene protocols,” Bennett said. “And some of those classrooms are just small. One of the things that we are looking at doing is getting up to what the State Education Department views as a good-sized classroom. This project is helping to facilitate some of those needs.”
The project would also create a new, larger multi-purpose gym addition, and would reconfigure art and music rooms to create an arts suite.
While the bulk of the work is planned at the elementary school, the middle and high schools would also have some renovations in the works, should the project be approved.
“We will take a look again at the art suites and try to expand what is now a really small footprint for our art room and expand it a little bit and make it a space that is more conducive to learning,” Bennett said. “The art room is jam packed right now and it becomes a safety concern if people need to exit quickly.”
Building infrastructure such as masonry, roofing, and heating and cooling facilities would also be improved under the project, along with needed asbestos abatement on flooring. Roof warranties that are nearing their end would be extended if the repair work is completed, Bennett added.
If funds are left over at the project’s conclusion, the district also included a “wish list” of needs that could also be met, including renovating additional classrooms, replacing doors and hardware like doorknobs, and heating and ventilation at the middle/high school.
The $14,480,000 budget would include $11,908,904 for work planned at the elementary school, and $2,571,096 at the middle/high school. The alternate “wish list” items come to $1,437,546.
To pay for the project, $2,600,500 would come from the district’s capital reserves, and $11,879,500 through a bond. The bond payments would be covered by state aid, according to DeCarlo.
The project is not expected to have an impact on the tax rate, Bennett reiterated.
The vote will take place Dec. 6, from 3-9 p.m., at Scott Ellis Elementary School, 11245 Route 32, Greenville.
If the project is approved by voters, the district expects to submit final construction plans to the State Education Department in June 2023, and approval from the state is anticipated by January 2024. The project would then be put out to bid in February 2024 and awarded in May 2024.
Construction is expected to begin in May 2024 and run through Nov. 2025.
For more information on the project and to view high-resolution renderings of the plans, visit www.greenvillecsd.org/page/capital-project-2022.