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Voters OK Whitesboro schools capital project

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 2/17/23

An expected New York State aid contribution of 86%, coupled with the leveraging of existing debt service schedules as previous debt ends, will mean the project will include no tax increase to Whitesboro district residents.

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Voters OK Whitesboro schools capital project


WHITESBORO — With three children between the high school, middle school and elementary schools of the Whitesboro Central School District, mom Kim Rudwall said she is “very excited” that district residents approved the proposed $26 million capital improvement project Feb. 14 by an 82.2% majority vote.

“Everything they proposed is only going to make the district better,” Rudwall said. “Whitesboro did a great job communicating with the parents and I really learned a lot about the project and how important it was before the vote.” She said she was especially appreciative that the district sent out a survey to the parents and really seemed to take into account their own ideas in creating the plan.

District Assistant Superintendent for Business Joe Muller said an expected New York State aid contribution of 86%, coupled with the leveraging of existing debt service schedules as previous debt ends, will mean the project will include no tax increase to district residents.

He called voting day a “great day” for the district, as all of their work to prepare the information for the district residents had paid off as the stakeholders voiced their approval of the project. “The community spoke and told us they feel confidence and faith that we have put together a responsible plan,” Muller said. “I couldn’t be happier. I thank them all for their partnership with us in supporting the students of tomorrow.”

“We are grateful to our school community for their continued support of our district,” added district Superintendent Brian Bellair. “Our priority is to create an environment in which all learners can succeed. Ensuring our facilities are conducive to today’s teaching and learning styles is essential to this aim. We look forward to our continued partnership with our school community and thank them again for the trust they place in our district.”

Bellair said some of the major benefits to this project include addressing aging HVAC infrastructure, improvements to the secondary family and consumer science and art classrooms, installing artificial turf on the middle school and Westmoreland Road Elementary School campuses, new elementary playground equipment, expansion of the safety and security initiatives, installation of digital marquees at the elementary and Parkway schools, and the replacement of districtwide fire alarm systems.

Muller said the next step will be to work internally with the architects and engineers to develop plans that will be submitted to the State Education Department for their approval. He said those plans should be to the state by mid-fall, a request for bids will go out maybe in December or January and then the project could start as early as next spring. Priorities will be established to decide what work is done in which phase.

March Associates Architects and Planners of Utica is developing the plans, Muller said.

Mike Lahey, a principal with March Associates, said he is excited and ready to go on the project. Their first step will be conducting site surveys of all of the district buildings - work that has actually already started, he said. Lahey said they expect construction to continue for two to three years after it begins. The firm has worked with the district on many projects in the past. Lahey is likely even more familiar with the school system as he has two Whitesboro Central School District student daughters of his own: one who has graduated and one who still attends school there. He also applauded the way the district approached its stakeholders for their input.

“We are really going to be able to do some great work because the district conducted a public survey so we will be able to hit on everyone’s priorities,” Lahey explained. “We will be making improvements including the athletics fields and classrooms, all with those priorities in mind.”

Modernized digital marquees might not seem like a major change, Lahey admitted, but it will enable the schools to get even more information out to parents. And it will keep someone on the staff from having to go out in the snow in the dead of winter to change the lettering on the old-fashioned marquee signs there now, he added.

Dunham Public Library Director April Bliss’ kids have already graduated from the district, but she works daily with kids and their parents who are still there.

“An educated mind is a great thing,” Bliss said. “I think they have been very fiscally responsible in putting together this plan - it’s going to be a case of pay now or pay more later.”

Regardless of whether or not they have children in the district, updating the schools is a good investment for all taxpayers, Bliss said. “A good school district helps all of your property values,” she explained.

For more information on the project, including a full list of specific improvements proposed and updated photos as the work progresses, visit:

Rudwall noted her family is in the Whitesboro school district specifically because of the quality of the school system there. Her husband John actually grew up in the area and attended school in Whitesboro, she said.

“We moved into the district in August 2015 - my husband grew up here and wanted to move back to this school district because he knew it would be great for the kids,” she said.


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