Batavia school board narrows list of priority building projects

 
 
Posted9/24/2014 5:30 AM

Seats on the home side for varsity football games at Batavia High School could remain hard to come by, as the Batavia school board Tuesday pared a larger grandstand from prioritized projects if voters agree to a plan to borrow $15 million for building.

The board agreed Tuesday night to concentrate on putting in an artificial-turf field in the stadium, replacing the current seven-lane track with another seven-lane track, adding an artificial-turf practice field, and making some improvements to softball fields and the junior varsity baseball field. That plan would cost about $7.66 million, the district estimates. Gone for now are the plans to build a 2,500-seat grandstand with a new press box, and adding lights to the tennis courts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Board members and Superintendent Lisa Hichens said they favored the option because it would enable the district to have more sports and band practices on the high school's campus rather than at fields at other schools.

The remainder of the money would likely be spent replacing two roofs, upgrading lighting at two schools, heating-cooling-ventilation equipment replacement at many schools, replacing a boiler at one school, putting in new plumbing at one elementary school, and rebuilding part of a parking lot.

Priorities could change, especially if unexpected things happen, such as storm damage to another roof, said Kris Monn, the district's assistant superintendent for finance.

The district intends to repay the $15 million over 20 years, with money from operating funds. It would sell general-obligation alternate-revenue bonds.

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But if the district doesn't have enough operating funds to make the payments, the bonds would be guaranteed by property taxes, according to the legal language of the referendum question.

District officials have said there is about $22 million worth of work districtwide to be done on buildings and grounds, including $13 million to change the fields at Batavia High School per a plan the board adopted in 2013.

At a finance committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Batavia Taxes co-founder Sylvia Keppel said there was no way to do all of the field plan, plus replace the maintenance building and all the other projects, without raising property taxes.

"If you really think the taxpayers of Batavia want you to spend millions of dollars of our hard-earned money on athletic field improvements, including artificial turf -- if you really think this is such a great idea that you back it 100 percent and think the majority of Batavians would also -- tell the truth and say this referendum is about the athletic fields redevelopment plan, and that taxes will have to eventually be raised to pay for them ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"But stop hiding behind the other 50 percent of your project list that is made up of high- and medium-priority items that reasonable people would agree on, as budgeting for these would not require a referendum or additional taxes increases to fund them."

Board member Melanie Impastato said the field work will help many students, not just athletes.

"I don't want this to just be like we are rewarding the football team for bringing home a championship," she said.

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