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Charter School for Applied Technologies plans expansion

One of the region's most successful charter schools is expanding its facilities yet again, with some significant help from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to help pay for the project and refinance older debt.

Charter School for Applied Technologies wants to construct a two-level addition for its high school building on Kenmore Avenue, adding 10 more classrooms, two administrative offices, student and staff bathrooms, an elevator and a fitness center with a locker room. It also wants to renovate two high school science classrooms, a "problem-solving" classroom and the cafeteria-serving line.

The 17,000-square-foot expansion and renovation at 2245 Kenmore Ave. is designed to accommodate growing demand for the school. Its enrollment has been approved to grow by 208 high school students, according to the school's application to the ECIDA.

The $4 million project would be funded with a bank loan backed by up to $30 million in tax-exempt "revenue bonds" issued by the Buffalo and Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp., an affiliate of the ECIDA. The school is also seeking a $40,000 mortgage-recording tax break.

Aside from the expansion and renovation, the rest of the proceeds of the bond issuance would be used to refinance $22.88 million in "civic facility revenue bonds" that ECIDA issued in 2005 for an earlier CSAT expansion. That's when it acquired and renovated its Kenmore Avenue complex for elementary, middle and high school students, as well as its library and administrative offices.

The initial bonds were not considered investment grade, so the interest payments are high. The refinancing, which would extend the bonds' maturity to 2035, would lower the interest rate from 6.806 percent to 4 percent, saving the school significant dollars now that it has an established track record. A reserve fund would also be established.

A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. April 17 at 95 Perry St., Suite 403. If the application is approved, officials hope to issue the bonds and start work imminently, with a goal of finishing by August.

Officials said in the ECIDA filing that the school's ability to expand its enrollment would be hindered without the ECIDA and ILDC participation, which is needed for interest payments on the bonds to be tax-exempt. The school said the project would retain 242 jobs and add at least 17 new ones.

CSAT opened in 2001 as a 700-student school for kindergarten through sixth grade, but expanded rapidly and now educates 2,090 students from 20 different school districts in its three buildings. Besides the high school site, its elementary school is located at 2303 Kenmore Ave., while its middle school is at 24 Shoshone St., at the former Holy Angels Academy building.

In 2014, the school received approval from the state to expand its enrollment to 2,365 by the 2019-2010 academic year. It's now the largest charter school in New York State, and one of only eight that offers a full K-12 education, with a focus on applied technologies.

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