A multi-million dollar Hornell City School District capital project that will be decided by voters in December centers on Hornell High School, where a gymnasium is slated to be rebuilt and roof problems fixed.
The $30.2 million project will need a simple majority to pass, not a super-majority 60 percent, after New Yorkers recently backed a change to the state constitution expanding the borrowing limit of the state’s 57 small city school districts.
The capital project, which also includes district-wide safety and security improvements, goes to residents on Wednesday, Dec. 20. Vote between noon and 9 p.m. in the Hornell High School lobby.
A community forum on the capital project is scheduled for 5 to 6 p.m., Dec. 6 in the high school library.
What’s in Hornell’s 2023 capital project
A key initiative is the reconstruction of the A gymnasium in the high school to create a larger competition gymnasium, with a new student fitness center and an elevated, community-accessible walking track.
The reconstructed space would be used for physical education classes and athletic teams, as well as being open to the community, according to Hornell School Superintendent Jeremy Palotti.
The gym concept “is one that came to us over and over again” from community members and stakeholders when the district created its most recent long-range facilities master plan, Palotti said.
The increased seating capacity of the new gymnasium would allow Hornell to host sectional competitions for the first time and hold school-wide assemblies and other large events in the gymnasium, the district said.
School leadership researched public support for the A gym rebuild in a 2021 exit poll, with the response favorable.
“Our current gymnasium does not fit all of our students,” Palotti said. “We have standing room only for large events that we host or competitive games. It’s not a good venue for Sectionals. We are looking for something that can enhance our school and enhance our community.”
Also at the high school, the capital project includes replacing a failing and leaking roof.
No tax increase as result of 2023 Hornell capital project
Palotti said with this capital proposal, the district is able to meet the scope that was asked for and maintain affordability.
The school district said the project, if approved, will have no impact on the tax rate. Financing includes about $12 million from the existing capital reserve fund and up to $18,140,000 in bond sales.
Hornell is reimbursed at a 95 to 98 percent rate by New York state for capital construction costs that are aid-eligible. State aid reimbursement on the project will be as much as $18 million, the district said.
The proposal represents the second stage of what the school district expects to be a three-phase effort to address building issues identified in the Facilities Comprehensive Plan.
Last December, voters approved the first phase, passing a $32 million capital project that features improvements to the 100-year-old Intermediate School and other buildings.
The 2022 capital project garnered broad support and cleared the super majority threshold, with more than 62 percent in favor.
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How many votes the capital project needs to pass
Unlike previous projects that required at least 60% support from voters, Hornell’s 2023 capital project only needs a majority to pass.
State Proposal One, which New York voters approved Nov. 7, removed the special constitutional debt limitation placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts.
Palotti said the amendment “levels the playing field for small city school districts” like Hornell.
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