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BURNT HILLS: BH-BL fix up projects to go to voters

On March 1, residents of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District will go to the polls to vote on two special propositions.

The first would authorize the purchase of approximately 4.6 acres of land adjacent to Stevens Elementary School and district bus garage for no more than $98,000. The second would approve using $4.9 million in state funds for upgrades on school buildings.

The money would be used to pay for 12 renovation projects, including re-roofing specific high-priority areas of all five schools, replacing the inefficient 56-year-old steam heating system at Pashley Elementary with a high efficiency hot-water system, replacing original, corroded galvanized piping at Stevens Elementary, upgrading the Stevens electrical capacity, and replacing the high school pool filters.

The district is looking to respond quickly to access its share of a new short-term form of building aid the state Legislature included in this year's state budget. Called Expanding Children's Education and Learning (EXCEL), this temporary form of aid can be used by school districts to pay for what is usually the local taxpayers' portion of construction or renovation costs.

The district is eligible for $1.1 million in state EXCEL building aid, which the state would match with an additional $3.8 million in regular building aid, resulting in the total package of $4.9 million of renovations to the five district schools.

If the voters approve our borrowing the $4.9 million, under the state EXCEL rules, we can finance the entire package of renovations, both principal and interest, with no additional cost to local taxpayers, said Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline St. Onge.

According to St. Onge, the renovations chosen for the referendum are those that meet state EXCEL restrictions and would save the district the most money by conserving energy and avoiding repair bills on aging systems.

"The Pashley boilers are so old we can't get parts for them anymore, and we spent more than $10,000 in 2005-06 just on repairs to keep that school heated," said St. Onge. "It's painful to pay that much money to keep antiquated boilers running, but replacing the heating system will cost nearly $2 million. This is why the school board hopes to use state EXCEL funds for this."

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