BOCES capital project goes to voters
SARANAC LAKE — Enrollment at Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) has grown, but the building on Route 3 in Saranac Lake that houses its classes, the Adirondack Educational Center, has not. For the first time since the building opened in 1975, FEH-BOCES will go directly to the voters to ask them to fund an $18.5 million project to renovate AEC and at the North Franklin Educational Center in Malone. Polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Thursday, September 21.
FEH-BOCES Superintendent Steve Shafer said the schools’ enrollment in the past few years has held steady, or grown.
“Our Career and Technology programs are definitely meeting a specific need,” Shafer said.
The capital project is meant to fund a mix of big-ticket items that would be hard to replace in a typical budget year, as well as small-scale updates to improve building safety and efficiency. For instance, the underground fuel oil tank is past its useful life, according to BCA Architects’ building needs assessment. Another item, the sewage lift pump should be replaced “prior to failure.” Existing bathrooms are not accessible to persons with disabilities.
“I have 2,000 square feet of space and almost no storage,” said Darcy Burman, standing among her cosmetology students at AEC. One of the renovations in the project would move the wall of her classroom outward and put in another classroom. There, Burman would like to be able to teach her students additional skills on demand in spas, which the current space doesn’t allow. “Everyone’s looking for people from our programs,” said Burman, who is herself a BOCES graduate.
AEC principal Rick Swanston would like to improve school security. The entrance to the school is not visible from his, or anyone else’s, desk. Renovations would move an administrative secretary next to the front door and move conference rooms to the back. Swanston also said professional development for teachers now requires more space, and there is a need for more conference rooms.
Leading the way into the medical arts classrooms, Swanston passes students engaged in learning CPR and enters a room lined with hospital beds. Each bed holds a plastic dummy “patient” for students to practice upon. In addition to more hospital beds, Swanston would like to have shower facilities added, providing students with a place to clean up.
The 32-acre campus doesn’t have a gym. While the capital project wouldn’t add one, it would add some more recreational space and allow for the alternative educational program to be concentrated in one part of the building.
Swanston stops in to the natural sciences area, where dust from students’ building projects near the door blows over the computers at the back of the room. Teachers in this area want a wall between construction and computers, which will preserve the equipment and provide a proper classroom space for technology.
How to pay for it
BOCES’ annual budget is voted on once a year by the school districts that use its shared services. Each district contributes a portion of BOCES’s budget, according to state aid formulas that aim to level the playing field for less-wealthy districts. Thus, many schools pay according to how much they use BOCES, as measured by attendance. The state then reimburses them a portion of their cost.
Saranac Lake’s enrollment in BOCES classes is 67 this year; Tupper Lake, 58; Lake Placid, 50. For typical BOCES services, school districts get the better of two formulas used by the state educations department. While many poorer districts get state aid reimbursements of 60 or more percent, these school districts count among the wealthier ones due to their number of high-value properties. The Tri-Lakes schools contribute according to a “millage” system, which sets a floor of 36 percent reimbursement.
“Because so many people have second houses with high values in this area, it makes these districts look wealthier than they are. They’d get less than 36 percent back in state aid.” Shafer said.
However, capital projects are funded differently from annual school budgets. Use of the millage formula is not allowed, so the Tri-Lakes schools don’t qualify for reimbursement. That means four districts pay according to a formula known as RWADA, or Resident Weighted Average Daily Attendance.
“Long Lake, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Raquette Lake won’t be eligible for state aid,” Shafer said. “In my opinion, they should at least get the aid for building that they do on their own capital projects.”
The districts will, if the vote goes through, pay their portions in three installments, beginning in January 2019. The component school districts entered into a joint agreement last May, that will take effect in the event of a successful vote by the public, allowing each district flexibility in how it comes up with the money for the project. “It could be they have some capital funds on hand, or they’ll have to issue a bond,” said Shafer.
School Business Executive Cindy Moody, at Saranac Lake Central Schools, said the districts are still in the process of putting together budgets, so the exact impact on school taxes won’t be known until next year. “There are a number of factors that determine that,” Moody said.
Should the project get voted down, FEH-BOCES would have to borrow from the Dormitory Authority of New York. Shafer said that would mean BOCES would be billing the districts for the next 20 years for this capital project.
“The districts are going to be able to get a better interest rate if we do it this way,” he said. “If we have a successful vote on Thursday.”
Where to vote
Saranac Lake: Adirondack Educational Center, Foyer, 711 state Route 3, Saranac Lake
Tupper Lake: Tupper Lake Central School Library, 25 Chaney Ave., Tupper Lake
Lake Placid: Lake Placid Central School Administrative Services Building, Conference Room. 50 Cummings Road, Lake Placid.
Long Lake: Long Lake Central School, Cafeteria, 20 School Lane, Long Lake
Raquette Lake: Raquette Lake Union Free School, Gym, 115 state Route 28, Raquette Lake
By the #s
North Franklin Educational Center — $9,259,309
Adirondack Educational Center — $6,631,049
Legal/Technical/Administrative Costs (including new water line at AEC) $2,616,000
Proposed total: $18,506,358
SCHOOL DISTRICT — RWADA — RWADA Percentage of Net Project Cost — Gross Share of Project Cost
Brushton-Moira Central School District — 791 — 9.321% — $1,725,021*
Chateaugay Central School District — 501 — 5.904% — $1,092,586*
Lake Placid Central School District — 719 — 8.47% — $1,568,003
Long Lake Central School District — 69 — 0.813% — $150,476
Malone Central School District — 2,446 — 28.824% — $5,334,263*
Raquette Lake Union Free School District — 1 — 0.012% — $2,181
St. Regis Falls Central School District — 288 — 3.394% — $628,073*
Salmon River Central School District — 1,571 — 18.513% — $3,426,053*
Saranac Lake Central School District — 1,289 — 15.191% — $2,811,065
Tupper Lake Central School District — 811 — 9.55% — $1,768,637*
*BOCES Aid will reduce the net project share for Tupper Lake, Chateaugay, Salmon River, Malone, Brushton-Moira, and St. Regis Falls districts.