Prop 2: Expansion At What Cost?

Proposition 2 is a tougher decision for Bemus Point voters.

The project is estimated to cost slightly more than $8 million, with the borrowing of the money taking place during the 2015-16 school year and the first payment budgeted for 2016-17. The 2016-17 budget then would reflect an estimated local share of $225,000, and an estimated tax levy increase of 2.86 percent, or 42 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

Work at Bemus Point Elementary School includes an update of the entire lockdown access system, relocate front entrance access system, additional window replacement, kitchen upgrades, repair classroom sinks and toilets, restroom upgrades, sidewalks- repair and new, parking lot reconstruction, generator upgrade, exterior drainage repairs, and repair gym scoreboard.

At Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School, renovations include a music suite, home and careers classroom, removal of the arches in front of the building and parking lot reconstruction of a secure bus loop and student drop-off area. It also includes several additions, including: a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) addition: new science classrooms, a large STEM multi-purpose room, fitness center and handicap access pathways from the football stadium to the new addition and to the soccer field.

There are very worthy justifications for such additions. The school can certainly use more modern science classrooms with the increasing focus on STEM education by the state Board of Regents. The new multi-purpose room could host athletics practices, large group instruction and health and gym-related activities. Existing science classrooms can also be turned into a middle school wing for students in sixth through eighth grades. And, better handicapped access to the school’s popular football and soccer games would benefit many district residents who have trouble making it from the parking lot to the fields.

Taxpayers must weigh those justifications, however, with these facts. Bemus Point had 749 students enrolled in 2011-12, according to the state Education Department, compared to 896 students in the 1998-99 school year. While enrollment trends are more stable the last three years, the long-term trend isn’t promising. Should any school districts be undertaking extensive expansion if re-using existing space is an option? Is it worth increasing taxes 2.86 percent starting in the 2016-17 school budget year at a time when many districts are struggling to keep taxes under the state’s 2 percent tax cap?

While Proposition 1 is justified based on need, Proposition 2 seems to be more of a want. Proposition 2 would definitely make the Bemus Point Central School District a nicer place for parents and students, but at what cost?