By Kellen M. Quigley

 Voters in the Ellicottville Central School District made their opinion known Tuesday when a referendum to proceed with an $8.4 million capital project passed 78 to 26.

With 104 voters casting ballots, the turnout was slightly lower than Superintendent Bob Miller had anticipated, but he said the overwhelmingly positive margin was greatly appreciated.

“It speaks well for the district that people recognize we have to do the things we’ve put in the proposal to protect the investment of the district and ensure student safety,” he said. “We’re very appreciative that people came out and supported the project and voted yes.”

The roughly $8.4 million project would see numerous health, safety, accessibility and code compliance measures addressed inside the main K-12 building, around the outside of the campus and at the bus garage.

“I think we did a good job of getting quite a bit of information out there,” Miller said. “They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and some of the pictures spoke for themselves about some of the things that need corrective action.”

Of the project’s $8.4 million bill, about $4,450,000, or 53 percent, would come from state building aid funding, with the remaining 47 percent — about $3,950,000 — to be paid for through the local tax levy. On average, district homeowners could expect an estimated annual tax increase of about $17.76 per $100,000 of home value.

This positive vote from community residents gives the green light to begin the formal planning process for such a project, with submission to the state Department of Education for approval by late 2020 and construction expected to begin in the spring of 2021.

“It’s exciting that we can now start to move forward and plan to take all these corrective actions and work on this project,” Miller said.

The next step will be to meet with the district’s architects, engineers and financial advisor and begin the planning process for the project’s specifications, Miller said.

“It’s not like building a brand new addition where you need to start from the ground up, but we definitely need the architects and engineers to dig into the fine details,” he said. “When you start looking at drainage and the stairs and stuff like that, that requires drawings and that’s going to be the more detailed work.”

During the design process, Miller said a committee of district officials and employees will be on hand to provide their expertise on the different areas that need replacements. He said the Building, Grounds and Transportation Committee will meet with the architects and engineers then include people as needed.

“There are so many facets to this where you’re going from parking lots to exterior lights to door hardware to the cafeteria,” he said. 

For example, Miller said Vicky Williams, the cafeteria manager, is already a member of the Building, Grounds and Transporation Committee and will be instrumental in the redesign and replacements in the kitchen area.

“I’m excited for this, and we’re also very grateful that the public did come out and support this the way that they did,” Miller added. “With that margin of victory tells me that the community is behind what we are doing.”