By Jann Wiswall

With a week to go before the Public Referendum vote, the Ellicottville Central School Board of Directors held its formal Public Hearing on the proposed Capital Project on Tuesday, March 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. Only 7-8 members of the public attended the hearing.

Superintendent Mark Ward made a PowerPoint presentation describing the goals and objectives of the capital improvement project. Major points covered included:

State Aid: The state has a complicated system that schools must use to apply for aid for a capital project. ECS, its architects and its financial consultants worked hard “to ensure that ECS is able to receive as much aid as possible,” said Ward. As a result, ECS will be reimbursed by the state for about 65 percent of the total price tag of $9.8 million – leaving roughly $3.4 million to be funded through the school tax.

Required Maintenance: Ward explained that about 85 percent of the proposed Capital Improvement Project costs are related to correcting maintenance and health and safety/security issues identified by a State Building Condition Survey in 2010. These include partial roof replacement; electrical, masonry and ventilation improvements; accessibility concerns; security improvements and more. If the project fails to win public approval, the school still must correct these issues at a cost of some $5.5 million that is not eligible for any state aid. These costs would have to come out of the school’s operating budget, which would mean significant cuts to school programs as well as teachers, staff and others who are directly involved in educating students.

Multi-Use Gymnasium: The remaining 15 percent of the project’s costs, Ward said, includes reconfiguring and adding a 100-foot by 50-foot addition to the back of the existing gymnasium. The aim is to create a multi-purpose athletic and performance space that can be used for sporting events as well as concerts, graduation, testing, large-group instruction, distance learning and more. Movable bleachers will enable parents, grandparents and others to see their children both on stage and on the court. It also provides adequate locker and restroom facilities for students and visiting teams.

Following the presentation, one member of the audience – a retired teacher – commented that “it’s too bad there aren’t more people here to listen to this presentation. I’m going to vote for it, and I just hope other people have learned enough about it to make an informed decision.”

Ward thanked her for her comments and noted that “folks who recognize the value of education know we need to take care of our space as best we can. This is not a luxury project. It represents our best effort to get as much as possible for every tax dollar and to keep our facilities in good working order for the next 40 years.”

The public is encouraged to vote at the Public Referendum on Tuesday, March 19. Polls will be open from 1-8 p.m. in the elementary school foyer.

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