Phase II capital project not approved, Board to review outcome

Liberty Central School District residents have rejected a $13.6 million capital project proposal to upgrade the high school’s aging infrastructure and to improve safety, instructional technology and energy efficiency.

The proposal failed in a 296 to 211 vote.

“While we are disappointed by the outcome, we appreciate that residents came out to consider this proposal,” Superintendent Dr. William Silver said. “We will be meeting with the Board of Education in the coming weeks to discuss the district’s next steps. The problems identified in this proposal still exist and will eventually need to be addressed.”

In particular, the district is dealing with the high school’s 50-year-old infrastructure. For example, the building’s original brick work, exterior walls and building envelope are crumbling. Also approaching their golden anniversary, the ventilation, rigging and house lighting systems in the auditorium are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws and regulations.

The bleachers in the high school gym do not meet current accessibility standards and have malfunctioning parts worn beyond repair. Because repair components are no longer manufactured, renovation is critical.

If it had been approved, the entire scope of work included in the proposal would have meant a $13 increase in the fall 2017 school tax bill for an average property assessed at $100,000 and receiving an Enhanced STAR exemption. A property with the same assessment, but receiving a Basic STAR exemption would have seen a $25 increase. State building aid would have paid for 78 percent of the costs, and the remainder would have come from the district’s capital reserve fund.

“We recognize that many of our residents are concerned about any level of tax increase. However, as stewards of the district’s facilities, the Board of Education felt it was critical to bring these projects to the community’s attention,” Silver said. “It is our responsibility to ensure our students and staff are in a safe and secure environment. We are very concerned about the building’s exterior condition, as well as the gymnasium bleachers and auditorium theatrical systems, which will only continue to deteriorate over time.”

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