Residents of the Batavia City School District will vote next Tuesday on whether to accept higher property taxes or to turn their backs on serious overcrowding in the city's three elementary schools.
The School Board in October approved a referendum calling for a 20-year bond issue to finance an $18.5 million elementary school on River Street. It would serve the city's southwest quadrant, the only area that does not now have its own K-5 school.
Superintendent David H. VanScoy contends that the existing schools are seriously overcrowded and that locker rooms, boiler room and a shower room have had to be converted into temporary classrooms. VanScoy, who predicts both a large turnout and approval, says enrollments in the lower grades will continue to increase.
He has at least one ally. An Industry/Education Alliance, a subcommittee of Genesee 2000, is supporting the bond issue. The committee said the new school is "very supportive of our mission." Genesee 2000 recently concluded a lengthy study on future needs and how to meet them.
The new school plan has had little public support in a series of informational meetings district officials have been holding for the last three weeks.
Business Manager Theodore A. Surowka said a property owner whose home is assessed at $60,000 and currently pays an estimated $1,080 tax bill, would pay an additional $33 a year or 55 cents on the tax rate if the bond issue is approved. With an estimated $600,000 in annual operating costs, the bill would jump to $1,188, an increase of $108 a year.
Property taxes in the district rose as much as 25 percent for many homeowners in payments due in mid-November, about the same time school officials began seeking support for the multimillion-dollar bond issue.
Some residents also have resented a 31 percent pay increase granted the Batavia Teachers Association in a new three-year contract negotiated earlier this year.
The proposed school would be built on an 11-acre site that the district purchased in October for $180,000. It would have 18 regular classrooms, two for special education and two for Board of Cooperative Educational Services students. Facilities would include five small remedial/resource rooms, art room, music room, computer lab, library/media center, cafeteria/auditorium, gymnasium and offices. State aid would total $3,268,590 and Genesee-Wyoming BOCES would contribute $478,058. The remaining $4,755,352 would be raised from local property taxes.
In a brochure delivered last weekend to all homes in the district, the number of additional classrooms to meet a K-5 enrollment of 1,566 in 1995 is pegged at eighteen.
The brochure said:
"To adequately meet the educational and support program needs of our elementary students, it is absolutely necessary that we construct the proposed new elementary school."