FAQ: Elementary School Air Conditioning Capital Project
Q: How many schools currently have air conditioning and why don’t others have it?
A: Currently, the Casey Middle School 2000 addition, Transit Middle School, and Williamsville East High School have air conditioning. Our schools have an average age of 60 years old (built between 1949-1993) and do not have air conditioning. At the time they were built, air conditioning and the associated infrastructure was not a consideration.
Q: Why is the District adding air conditioning to our schools?
A: The District recognizes the importance of providing an educational environment that is welcoming. Hotter weather in the fall when the school year begins followed by hotter weather in the spring and summer as the school year ends, can impact classroom environments. For example, when daytime temperatures are 80-degrees or higher, or our region experiences extreme humidity, our schools do not cool down rapidly at night prior to the next school day. In addition, the installation of air conditioning would allow for improved filtration systems as an added mitigation practice as we near the endemic phase of the COVID-19 global health pandemic.
Q: Why are the elementary schools being prioritized over the middle and high schools?
A: The District recognizes the impact a learning environment can have on its youngest students. It is critical that these students begin their path to learning in an environment that presents them with the highest degree of success. This makes the elementary schools the logical starting point to phase-in this capital project.
Q: Will the air conditioning project improve air filtration?
A: Yes, as stated previously, the installation of air conditioning would allow for improved filtration systems as an added mitigation practice as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 global health pandemic. The new system will increase school filtration to the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) 13. This is a plus-5 (+5) rating increase in our MERV filtration system.
Q: Are there other benefits to this capital project besides air conditioning?
A: Yes, many of our schools original heating system components will be replaced, which will modernize and add efficiency to both the heating and air conditioning. Elementary school classroom cabinetry will be replaced along the window walls and school building efficiency will be improved by searching for and sealing areas in the building structures.
Q: What is the cost of the School Building Air Conditioning Project?
A: The estimated cost for the School Building Air Conditioning Project at the elementary level is $64,119,318.
Q: How can the cost of this project not impact my taxes?
A: The financial plan for this project includes capital reserve dollars that have been saved specifically for use in this type of capital project. This amounts to $23,816,459. The debt amount for this project equals $37,301,159 and the principal and interest to support this new debt is available in our general fund budget because old debt has been paid off. Because the debt needed for this project is currently in our budget there is no future increase to the general fund budget.
Q: Does the District receive State Aid for this project?
A: Yes, the District will receive an estimated reimbursement of 62.7% of all qualifying expenses for this project. It is estimated that the District will receive $38,192,622 in aid or $2,546,178 per year over a fifteen-year period of time. Because there is no increase to the general fund budget for new debt, this aid will reduce the community’s share of an annual budget increase.
Q: When is the School Building Air Conditioning Project being voted on?
A: The School Building Air Conditioning Project will be on the May 17, 2022 ballot.
Q: If approved, when will construction and installation begin for the elementary schools?
A: If the air conditioning capital project proposition is approved, the District’s design team will create construction documents. The completed documents are sent to the New York State Education Department for approval. Once approval is received, the District can bid and begin the project work, which could tentatively begin in 2024 and be completed in 2026.
Q: When will voters be presented with the middle school and high school capital projects?
A: The timing of the next phase of the air conditioning project is likely to occur with a project plan and new capital proposition in 2025. 2025 is expected to be the second and final year of construction for the elementary school project.
Q: If construction is taking place during the school year, will that impact instruction in the classrooms?
A: Construction for the School Building Air Conditioning Project will take place throughout the school year, thus impacting some classrooms. Our construction team is developing plans to minimize the disruption to classroom learning while completing the project work as soon as possible. Not every school will be under construction at the same time and there is the potential for temporary classrooms to be located on school sites to provide a safe and clean learning environment for students when their classroom space is under construction.
Prior to construction beginning, the District will ensure proper educational spaces are available to students and teachers so their work can continue.
Q: What happens if the School Building Air Conditioning Project is not approved by voters?
A: The School Building Air Conditioning Project addresses important updates to our schools, not only creating more welcoming, comfortable learning environments, but healthy ones as well. If the project is not approved, the District will not pursue the installation of air conditioning at our remaining schools. The learning environment for schools will continue with our normal heating systems and fans will continue to be used in classrooms to mitigate heat issues. The District will see a reduction in state aid due to old capital projects being fully aided by New York State. Without new aid replacing these amounts, there will be an impact to the total state aid received by the District.