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'No' votes on school capital project explained

by Olivia
Fri, Dec 9th 2011 02:00 pm

Two elected officials said there is more than meets the eye when judging their votes against the Grand Island Central School District's proposed $51 million capital project.

At two separate meetings this week, School Board Vice President Tak Nobumoto and Town Councilwoman Mary Cooke explained why they voted "no" on issues related to the project.

Nobumoto was the lone dissenting vote against presenting the project to voters when it passed 6-1. The project will go before district residents Dec. 20.

"I wish more people would ask" about the "no" vote, Nobumoto said during a meeting of Erie County Watch at Grand Island Memorial Library. He said he voted against the capital project even though he agreed on 99 perent of the proposal, which is broken into two propositions of $46.8 million and $4.6 million.

"It was the last $400,000 that I thought was better served with some other items that eventually came into Proposition 2," Nobumoto said, noting that he favored putting auditorium seating in the $46 million Proposition 1. Proposition 2 includes work on the athletic fields and high school auditiorum and would entail a 2/10 of 1 percent tax increase. Proposition 1, funded with state aid and money from a capital reserve account, would not result in a tax increase, according to the district.

"It's just part of the process, and I think it's important because it wasn't a process by which we said, 'Let's just do all this stuff because we like it.' Nobumoto said. "There was debate like that for almost everything that we did."

He said the board considered project work that totaled some $90 million, but which was reduced to the $51 million  grand total after much consideration of what he estimated were 550 different line items for work. Some of the discussion took place with the district's ad hoc facility committee, composed of community members.

"So we had some very spirited debate, not just among the board members, but also the community members to go through each thing."

Nobumoto said he agreed with 99 percent at the time of the vote to present the project to the voters for approval, and disagreed on a final piece. He said now, "I believe in the 100 percent."

On Monday at the Town Board meeting, Cooke voted against a board resolution presented by Councilman Ray Billica supporting the capital project.

Cooke said in her 18 years the Town Board has not taken a vote on similar matters, such as a capital project or a school budget.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with the capital project itself. It's the procedure, and I don't know that it's a legitimate function of the Town Board to be going on record two weeks before a vote of the entire town on an issue and coming out unequivocally supporting two propositions that the town is being asked to vote on. And I'm particularly concerned with the tax increase," she said.

"I don't have any information. We spent two minutes on it," Cooke said. "That is the sum total of anything that was done at the Town Board level regarding that issue. I absolutely need more information."

Billica said that while he respected Cooke's position, "I am appreciative of the rest of the members supporting the resolution because I do think it is proper for us, a Town Board entity, to support something that's very important in our community."

Billica said that as a member of the school's facility committee on the capital work he "saw firsthand all the things that need to be repaired in all our schools, things that have been the same since I entered that school in 1963 up on Ransom Road."

"The residents of Grand Island need to understand that it's very important to have that done," he said.

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