by Janet Schultz
The Lewiston-Porter Board of Education is looking into the future, the immediate as well as the distant, after listening to three presentations during its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Superintendent Christopher Roser gave his take on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's promise to increase state aid to schools to 4 percent. After doing the calculations the end result would be that Lew-Port may see a state aid increase of 1.66 percent, in line with that to be received by the majority of schools in Niagara County.
For the last several years, Lewiston-Porter has been able to absorb the state cuts and still assess no tax levy on the residents.
"This may not be the case any longer," said Roser. "The increase is not enough to maintain programs or to do some things that we were hoping to do."
The increase would amount to $170,000 in a budget of more than $40 million. This amount does not include the aid the district would receive for capital projects.
The board is meeting monthly in workshop sessions preparing a budget for vote in May.
The board also will review a capital construction financing plan presented by Municipal Solutions Inc. that would include a new roof for the high school and repairs to the swimming pool.
The roof is currently leaking into the gym, which has a new floor; and the pool liner is deteriorating quickly to the point that the pool may have to be shut down if something isn't done.
"We can repair the pool and make it serviceable for the next 10 years, protecting the investment we have," said Roser.
Along with the smaller project, the idea is to develop a five-year plan, which would include some alternatives to the current pool plus looking at other building conditions and developing a capital construction project that also would be taken to the voters.
The $2.5 million project (small project) is coming at a time when construction costs are very competitive due to a decline in building and at a time when interest rates are at their lowest, according to Jeff Smith of Municipal Solutions Inc.
Smith explained the financial process and how Lew-Port can take advantage of capital construction state aid and have work completed in the next two years that is vital to the campus. In addition, the board established a capital reserve fund that would help with some of the costs.
The board will review the financial plan, put out a request for an individual to do the small project and also be the consultant on the long-range project, with the idea to take the entire capital construction plan to the voters in May.
If approved by the voters, the capital construction small project would go to the State Education Department for approval in late 2012, construction would be done over summer 2013 with state aid on the project coming to Lew-Port in the 2013-14 school year; thus eliminating any need for local debt. Anything not covered by the aid could come from New York Power Authority host community funds and the capital reserve fund, which can only be used for debt service.
The future on the educational side will give students at Lew-Port the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese.
High school Principal Paul Casseri explained that years ago the Chinese government established a Confucius Institute at the University of Buffalo and Alfred State University. There are 300 worldwide.
The idea is for the high school to work with the institute through the colleges. Lewiston-Porter is the only high school in Western New York selected to gain a Confucius Classroom.
An instructor from Lew-Port's sister school, Tianjin No. 2, in China will teach Mandarin for one year. The instructor will billet with several of the Lew-Port faculty and work with UB during the summer. The only cost to Lew-Port is a monthly living stipend.
"This is a unique opportunity for us," said Casseri.
"This relationship with China has grown due to Paul's diligence," said Roser.
A group of students from Tianjin No. 2 will arrive for a week's stay in Western New York on Feb. 3.
In other news, the board accepted the retirements of three faculty members effective June 30. Retiring are Margo Spring, elementary education; Donna Ryan, special education and Laurie Muto, elementary education.
"This is a total of 77 years of teaching experience leaving us," said Roser.
"It is with reluctance that we accept these requests for retirement," said Board President Jodee Riordan. "They will be missed."
The board graciously accepted a donation of $400 to be used by the swim team from Chris and Kim Sembert.
The board and Roser also honored the counseling staff in recognition of National School Counseling Week, Feb. 6 through 12. Each counselor received a certificate of recognition.