By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
With two phases of the $58 million capital project nearing completion, the Grand Island Central School District is embarking on another round of improvements to the district.
Vaughn Maracle of Campus Construction Management briefed the Grand Island Board of Education Monday on Phase 3 of the project.
"In large part, we've had a very successful capital project to date," Maracle said at Monday's trustee meeting in the Grand Island High School Professional Development Room. "It's been a good three years on the Island."
Phase 3 addresses "additional scope of work to the project," he said, that is possible because bids received almost three years ago for work in Phase 1 came in lower than forecast.
"We had an extremely competitive bid day," Maracle said of Phase 1, which now affords the district an opportunity to consider additional work, including several alternatives: a new greenhouse and snow melt system in the high school courtyard, a storage facility, utility and safety improvements, a sign at Sidway Elementary, Kaegebein Elementary stage curtains and fencing at the high school baseball diamond.
Bids were taken Tuesday for Phase 3 and came in competitive as well, Maracle said in recommending two low bids. The board accepted the low bid of a lump-sum general trades contract of $1,584,956 by Northern Dreams Construction Inc. and the low bid of $576,000 for electrical work by Goodwin Electric.
Alternates for Phase 3 were recommended to the board in consultation with the district administration. Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Support Services Robert McDow called Phase 3 an ongoing process. Of note, the district will consider how to address its high school library deficiencies. McDow said the library is a 1970s-1980s-style facility and needs to be brought up to date.
Maracle said the library is "in need of dire work" and "an overhaul."
In other discussion at the meeting:
•The board received its second input session from McDow for the 2016-17 school budget.
McDow told the board the budget assumes salary increases of $850,000 (which does not include teacher retirements), a health care increase of $357,000 (5.9 percent), a debt service increase of $2.5 million, and $283,000 decrease in retirement system costs.
The draft budget is $60,853,626 (an increase of 4.71 percent) and calls for a real property tax levy of $32,994,175 (an increase of 5.26 percent). The board has work to do, McDow said, to lower that percentage increase to 3.4 percent, the local tax levy cap percentage. The allowable levy growth factor is .12 percent, though the district has an exclusion of $1,246,545 for the capital tax levy as it begins to repay the aforementioned capital project. The total tax levy to the local cap is $32,411,194, an increase of $1,065,564 (3.4 percent).
The board is awaiting action by the State Legislature in Albany on aid.
New York State School Board Association Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a press release Monday that budget resolutions put forward by the Assembly and State Senate are encouraging for school districts.
"Both provide substantial infusions of Foundation Aid above the governor's proposal - and both abolish the Gap Elimination Adjustment next year," Kremer said.
"Schools will need every penny of state aid if they are going to cope with this year's punishingly low tax cap," he added. "Dozens of districts face a negative tax cap - requiring 60 percent voter approval just to raise the same amount in local revenue as last year. Statewide, the average school district tax cap is just 1.1 percent."
The board will meet Monday, April 4, for tentative budget adoption. The board must adopt a budget by Tuesday, April 19.
A public budget hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 9, and the uniform statewide budget vote and Board of Education trustee election will take place Tuesday, May 17.
•Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence noted the probationary periods have ended for Director of Transportation Theresa Alizadeh and Director of Facilities James Rozler, and they were approved by the board for permanent appointment.
"They have served us well," Lawrence said in thanking Alizadeh and Rozler for "their leadership, their growth and contributions."
Both took over for two longtime directors who had retired last year: Jack Burns in transportation and Tom Rachow in buildings and grounds.
School board candidates sought to fill 2 seats
Candidates interested in a seat on the Grand Island Board of Education must file nominating petitions with District Clerk Janet Schuster by 4 p.m. April 18, the district reports.
Thirty-three valid signatures of district residents are required on a petition. Forms are available at the district office, located at 1100 Ransom Road, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays beginning March 21.
The two available seats are for three-year terms.
To qualify to run for the Board of Education, a candidate must:
•Be a citizen of the United States.
•Be at least 18 years of age.
•Be a resident of the district for one year prior to the election.
•Be able to read and write.
The school board election and budget vote will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17 in the Grand Island High School main gym, 1100 Ransom Road.