The Lisbon Board of Education will ask voters to consider a $16,174,000 Capital Improvement Project to fund the construction of a district transportation maintenance facility and indoor bus storage on existing school property, as well as to provide needed infrastructure updates to the district’s main school building. The capital project vote will take place on March 14, 2023.
If approved by voters, the transportation portion of the project would include the construction of an approximately 16,200 square foot facility located on the district’s main campus.
Approximately 80.1% of the project would be funded with New York State building aid, $500,000 from school district reserves, and the remainder – the local portion – would be paid for with property taxes. A property valued at $100,000 would see a tax impact of $89.41 with no exemptions. This impact would begin in the 2024-2025 fiscal year.
“This project is about student safety and protecting the district’s investments, while working to minimize the impact on taxpayers,” said Superintendent of Schools Patrick J. Farrand. “We want to make sure students are getting to school safely, and to do so we must be able to maintain and take care of our school buses.”
Other items included in the proposed capital project include improvements to the district’s main school building – including replacing some existing windows, floor tiles and heating ventilators, as recommended by the 2021 Building Condition Survey. Every five years, school districts are required by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to complete a Building Condition Survey. The Building Condition Survey requires schools to contract with an architect firm to identify all aspects of infrastructure including items in need of improvement.
Farrand discussed the proposed transportation facility at a community information session on Tuesday, Dec. 13, the fourth such session he has offered in recent months.
“The Board of Education values input from community members,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are a community school and taking the initiative to invite, welcome, and include the community is what creates the foundation of this improvement project.”
Farrand said the district’s Facilities Committee had considered three options before making a recommendation to the board in early December: work with the town to jointly build a facility; purchase property to build a facility; or, build a facility on existing school property.
Farrand said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee had looked into purchasing property, but that does not appear to be the best option for the district.
“We consulted and brainstormed with a representative of the New York State Rural Schools Association as well as Senator Ritchie’s office and Assemblyman Walzyak’s office to consider the best use of resources and how we could take on this project in the most fiscally responsible way,” he said. “The roadblock to working with the town is that the town doesn’t receive building aid and the school does. The district receives 96.5% in state building aid.”
In essence, said Farrand, working with the town would potentially cost taxpayers more than the school completing the project on its own, because only the district would receive aid and a portion of the building would not receive state building aid if completed jointly.
“The feedback has allowed the district to conclude that the district should build the facility itself,” he said. “We can work with others by considering the sharing of services and facility amenities after the building is finished.”
Farrand said bus maintenance is currently performed by Heuvelton Central School District utilizing a shared bus mechanic and Montroy’s Garage. However, either of those arrangements could cease to work for the district at any time.
“We have to have a plan. We have to be able to take care of our own buses,” Farrand said.
Farrand noted a new facility must take into account a New York State mandate that requires school districts to begin purchasing electric buses in 2027, with a total fleet conversion to occur no later than 2035. A new transportation facility would allow the district to properly plan and incorporate electric vehicle infrastructure into the proposed project, Farrand said.
“If we’re constructing any type of facility, we want to make sure we’re planning ahead so whatever we construct will meet future New York State mandates,” he said.
The Facilities Committee determined the most logical choice is to build on existing land to meet the needs of the district. The location recommended by the Facilities Committee is located in the wooded area adjacent to the school parking lot and the varsity soccer field. That parcel of land has been environmentally assessed and determined to be a viable location for a new construction.
Farrand said community forums had highlighted the importance of including the construction of an indoor bus storage facility.
“We are moving forward with including indoor bus storage with the understanding that this will decrease the overall New York State aid rate to 80.1%,” said Farrand.
Lisbon began acquiring its own fleet of buses in the 2020-21 school year. Previously, the district contracted bus services with a third party company. The district currently is operating 13 vehicles in its fleet at a significantly reduced cost compared to contracting options.
“ The transition to owning and operating our own transportation fleet has provided significant savings,” Farrand said.