Based on recommendations made in the district’s most recent Building Condition Survey (2015), voters will be asked to approve the first phase of a planned 15-year, three phase capital improvement project on Dec. 5, 2018. If approved, the first phase would address safety and security issues (by installing new, secure visitor entrances in both school buildings, upgrading all district lighting to LED, replacing exterior and interior doors and undertaking asbestos abatement in various areas); improve building systems (by making upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and energy efficiency; and make much-needed infrastructure and accessibility renovations (by replacing some ceilings, corridor lockers and the middle school gymnasium floor, renovating the coaches’ area to meet accessibility requirements and improving the cafeteria to accommodate large-group gatherings).
District officials anticipate the project, which would begin in the spring/summer of 2020, would result in no additional property taxes for residents.
Since March 2018, the district has been working with King+King Architects to craft a project scope, timeline and budget. The district is proposing to spend no more than $10 million on the projects listed above, in addition to a $1.5 million energy performance contract (EPC), which would be undertaken simultaneously to make the capital project improvements as energy-efficient and cost-effective as possible.
The project’s focus on safety complements Moravia’s overall renewed commitment to the social and emotional wellness of all students, as do several other renovations included in the proposed project scope, such as a library reconfigured to feature collaborative workspaces and an innovative approach to corridor lockers. The EPC, meanwhile, will include such energy conservation measures as lighting controls equipped with daylight harvesting and dimming capabilities; improved insulation and sealing; automated electronic controls; and several mechanical system upgrades.
An EPC enables a school district to cover the costs of energy efficiency upgrades over time using the savings generated by the upgrades—also known as energy conservation measures (ECMs). The “savings” generated by ECMs are effectively avoided costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, performance contracts “operate on the understanding that schools will use the avoided cost to pay off the cost of installed ECMs.”
According to a report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO), schools that pursue [EPCs] can reduce their energy consumption by an average of 23 percent for major HVAC equipment replacement and 21 percent for combinations of other low-cost improvements in hot water production, lighting, and refrigeration, without sacrificing occupant comfort or building operations.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How did the district decide what work to include in the project?
Every public school district in New York state is required to undertake a building condition survey every five years. In 2015, the district worked with architects at Hunt EAS to conduct the mandated survey, which identified several areas of need, including those listed in this proposed project.
We vote on a school budget every year. Why can’t the district use that money to pay for these improvements?
Just like a home, school facilities need regular attention and upkeep to continue to operate year after year as originally intended. The cost of keeping up with the daily wear and tear caused by hundreds of students, staff and visitors, year after year, can rise above and beyond what the annual school budget can support. Capital improvement projects are a way for school districts to complete a larger amount of facilities work sooner than otherwise possible within the scope of the annual school budget.
Wouldn’t it have been better for the district to include additional funds in its annual budget each year to complete this work?
When expenditures for improvements and major repairs are paid for from the general budget fund, they are not eligible for any reimbursement from the state. When integrated in a capital project, the state reimburses Moravia at a rate of 83 percent for the same improvements and repairs. A capital project with state building aid allows the district to be fiscally responsible while protecting the community’s investment in our schools.
The general fund budget always includes allocations for routine repairs and maintenance. However, the proposed capital project looks beyond mandated repairs and upgrades to address major infrastructure needs that protect the community’s longterm investment in our school facilities and their ability to meet instructional needs for the 21st century. The district could defer some of the proposed capital project work, but the delay could result in more serious and costly infrastructure issues and greater disruption to instructional time and student achievement.
How can $11.5 million in improvements result in no new taxes?
By the time the district will need to start paying for this proposed project, it will have paid off a bond that financed previous capital improvements. Because state aid calculations are partially based upon the amount of a district’s debt, being in debt is actually fiscally healthy for a school district. So the district proposes to replace one debt package with another to increase state aid and also utilize money in its capital reserve fund to ease the tax impact on residents.
When would the capital project work begin? When is it expected to be completed?
If the voters approve the project on Dec. 5, the work would begin spring/summer 2020 and would be completed by late 2020/early 2021.