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Lockport School Board is told project won't burden taxpayers

In spite of the troubled economy, it appears the Lockport School Board will be able to modernize Lockport High School at little or no cost to district taxpayers.

Meeting Wednesday, the board was told by its consultants that even under the current worst-case economic situation, the district could spend $21.5 million on renovations to bring the high school into the 21st century at no burden to property owners.

They said that if the board does everything it's thinking about, including creating a new football stadium complete with artificial turf and renovating campus softball fields, the project could run up to $29.5 million. That would add 12 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation to the tax rate over a 15-year period to repay the money borrowed to do the work.

Translated: It would cost the average taxpayer an additional $8.93 a year in school taxes over the 15-year payback period, school officials said.

It just depends on how much work the board wants done and how far it feels voters want school renovations to go.

Rick Ganci, the assistant vice president with Capital Markets Advisors LLC, said that since the district will not be borrowing for another 18 months on the project, the economy could change back to normal in that time, interest rates could go down and the full $29.5 million project would pose no tax increase.

The board expects to borrow $18 million to pay for the project at the low end, along with $3 million from its capital reserve fund and about $544,000 in state Expanding Our Childrens Education and Learning funds, which it is entitled to use. The state would reimburse the district to the tune of 80 percent of the cost.

Under the direction of Board President Marietta Schrader and Facilities Committee Chairman Thomas W. Fiegl, the board will continue to hone in on what they want done so it can be presented to voters during a public referendum Dec. 16.

The board's Facilities Committee will meet in closed session at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to work on the project prior to the 7 p.m. board session that evening. The full board also plans to meet Oct. 22 to discuss the project further and again on Oct. 29 when it expects to adopt a final project proposal and officially set the referendum date.

Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone said the project is needed to give the city's children a facility that's competitive with districts all over the country and beyond.

If it receives public approval, the project should be completed over two summers with ground being broken at the beginning of July 2010, Deborah Coder, assistant superintendent for finance, said.

Carbone said the project calls for the complete renovation of the school's technology wing, the creation of a performing arts center, including the renovation of the school auditorium and surrounding music rooms, the addition of about six special-education classrooms, the creation of a new fitness center, and the upgrading of science laboratories, windows for energy efficiency and kitchen facilities, in addition to other renovations.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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