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updated: 8/13/2014 5:39 AM

Batavia school to ask voters for permission to borrow $15 million

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Batavia school district voters will get to decide Nov. 4 whether the district should borrow $15 million to speed up work on building projects, including installing a new grandstand and artificial turf in the stadium at Batavia High School.

The school board voted 4-2 Tuesday to put the question on the ballot. Board members Jon Gaspar and Jason Stoops voted against it, and Gregg Hodge was absent.

Gaspar and Stoops voted against it because they said they thought it would be better to wait until next year. Both wanted more time to prepare for voters' questions. And Stoops thinks a November vote "is definitely going to come off as us rubber-stamping it and rushing it through as a board."

But trustee Melanie Impastato said it would be better to take the vote in the November election, in which more people are likely to vote because statewide offices, including governor, will be on the ballot. Turnout is usually lower in a February primary or the April municipal election, she said.

"I don't want anybody to say we hid it on a ballot that nobody goes to," Impastato said.

Voters will be asked whether the district should borrow the money by selling general-obligation alternate-revenue bonds, to be repaid over 20 years at about $1.2 million a year. That adds up to $24 million in principal and interest.

The bonds would be repaid out of the operations-and-maintenance fund. If the district ran out of money in that fund, officials could use money from other operating funds, said Kris Monn, assistant superintendent for finance. As a last resort, the bonds would be guaranteed by property taxes, according to the legal language of the referendum question.

Monn said there is about $22.6 million worth of work to be done throughout the district in the next five years, including the high school athletic fields project. About $13 million worth of work is left on that, he said.

He and Patrick Browne, the building and grounds director, have developed a list splitting the $15 million between the high school project and other items including replacing roofs at several schools, improving lighting, climate and ventilation equipment replacement and more. The board could add or subtract projects to that list as it sees fit.

The board didn't need to ask voters' permission. But if the school board voted to borrow the money via these bonds, the registered voters could have petitioned for a vote on the matter, through a backdoor referendum.

"It becomes an 'us against them' situation that we didn't think would be healthy for us in this situation." Monn said.

Gaspar said he wanted more time to get more information about what the money would be spent on, but board member Tina Bleakley said the board has been talking about the athletic fields plan for two years. She and board President Cathy Dremel said it is time to resolve the issue.

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