Proposed $140 million bond issue eyed for Batavia schools

Voters in Batavia School District 101 will get to decide next month whether to approve a $140 million bond issue to replace H.C. Storm Elementary and Louise White Elementary with new school buildings plus make other district-wide improvements including safety and security upgrades.

The referendum question will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The timing of the referendum is “ideal” to take care of the district’s schools because the district’s bond debt will expire in two years, district officials said.

“We have a lot of work to do on our schools,” Batavia School District 101 Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese said.

If voters approve the referendum in November, the Board of Education would be able to issue school building bonds that coincide with the retirement of existing debt and generate funding for capital improvements without increasing the current bond and interest property tax levy, officials said.

The money generated from the proposed bond issue is needed to maintain quality schools that meet evolving needs in teaching and learning, district officials said. Changes would include safety and security upgrades and replacing H.S. Storm and Louise White elementary schools with new facilities on the same sites.

Renovating the H.S. Storm and Louise White schoool buildings would not be cost-effective, Inglese said.  There are mounting structural and functional issues at the facilities that have been determined to be more costly to tackle than to replace the buildings, he said.

In addition, it would take years to renovate the facilities, district officials said.

“It would take at least three years of construction to renovate the buildings that students would have to endure,” Inglese said. “We would have to place students in mobile classrooms or put them on buses and send them to other schools. Those costs alone would be in the order of $5 million to $6 million and the district does not have that kind of cash. It’s actually more economical to build the schools than renovate them.”

The district would build the two new elementary schools on the current campus sites at an estimated $35 million each and demolish the old schools. The new schools would be more efficient to operate as well, district officials said.

Other improvements planned for the district if the bond issue is approved would be for roofs, heating and cooling units, windows, doors and other operational maintenance needs as well as more secure entrance vestibules and improving spaces for special education, according to referendum documents.

The district has had community engagement sessions to discuss the proposal. 

Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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