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Board sets January 12 date for schools improvement vote

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CHATHAM – The school board voted last week to place a $5-million capital improvement project before voters in January. The project will be presented on the ballot as two propositions, letting voters decide on whether to permit the district to spend the money on upgrades and repairs in all three district buildings, with the second proposal asking for approval the replace the lights at the high school athletic field.

The projects would be paid for with federal economic stimulus money and from the district’s capital reserves. No new taxes would be required to pay for the work.

Proposition #1 on the January 12 ballot would cost $4,217,283. Superintendent of Schools Cheryl Nuciforo said at the meeting that work involved improving energy efficiency, addressing health and safety issues, complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and some other changes related to educational programs. There are science rooms in the school that currently have no hot water and labs that need new hoods to remove chemicals and other materials from the air. Roofing at the middle school is also part of the project, as well as updating appliances at the elementary school kitchens, along with many other items.

Propsition #2 would replace of the lights on the football field. Ms. Nuciforo said the lights would be energy efficient and meet safety standards. That project would cost $320,000.

The superintendent said that the she and board members will meet with village and town boards in the district, as well as parent groups and clubs to discuss the vote. “If there is any group that wants a presentation… they just need to call my office,” said Ms. Nuciforo. There will also be information on the school website.

The district plans to empty its capital reserve funds, using all $1.4 million for the project. Ms. Nuciforo said over time district officials hope replenish the reserve. The district will also use $547,714 of federal economic stimulus money. There is also $550,000 left over from a $6-million capital project just completed by the district. In addition to these sources the district is also factoring in state aid, and school officials say the new project will have no tax impact on the community.

At the meeting the board also approved the creation of several more reserve funds. Using funds from the Unappropriated Fund Balance from funds left over from last year’s budget, they created at Retirement Contribution Fund, Unemployment Insurance Payment Fund, and a Workers’ Compensation Fund.  Each account will receive some part of the $1 million now in the Unappropriated Fund Balance.

Ms. Nuciforo had discussed creating the reserve accounts with the board at the last meeting in early November. She said that officials did not anticipate having money left for a fund balance in the future.”

The district also discussed the H1N1 flu vaccine clinic the district hosted with the Columbia County Department of Health November 20. Ms. Nuciforo said that over 500 students and staff received the vaccine. “The county health staff was terrific,” she said.

At a future meeting the board hopes to discuss changes made by the state to real property tax exemptions. Ms. Nuciforo said the exemption “provides tax relief for some of folks who are struggling financially.” The state has raised the income eligibility level to the range of $29,000 to $34,000 and the exemptions apply to volunteer firefighters and EMTs. The board did not set a date for that discussion.

The next Chatham School Board meeting is Tuesday December 8 at 6:30pm in the Middle School Library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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