Maura McAward, the assistant superintendent for business, walks the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee through the method she used to calculate the potential state aid for construction at Port Chester High School during the group’s Tuesday, Oct. 26 meeting. 
Casey Watts|Westmore News
Maura McAward, the assistant superintendent for business, walks the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee through the method she used to calculate the potential state aid for construction at Port Chester High School during the group’s Tuesday, Oct. 26 meeting. Casey Watts|Westmore News

The Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) is almost finished with its charge; members have chosen what to do with Port Chester High School and during their Tuesday, Oct. 25 meeting, they finalized plans for the elementary schools.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Maura McAward gave another presentation that featured her estimates of what portion of concept one and concept 18 would be aidable by the state. She made it clear that the cost estimates and the aidable amounts are subject to change – as the plans get further into development, rooms will need to be moved around slightly and the state aid ratio can change every academic year.

Of the current $49.5 million price tag for concept one, the build on College Avenue, McAward guessed that around $18.4 million, which is 37 percent of the total cost, would be aidable. For concept 18, which is the idea above Tamarack Road that the BAC approved, about $21.3 million, or 43 percent, of the $49.9 million total would be aidable.

The greater amount of financial help is because concept 18 has more Building Aid Units, which are numbers that are assigned to rooms with a specific purpose like a science lab or a gym that help determine how much aid a project can receive. The higher the BAUs, the more aidable something will be. There is also a significant difference in aid when a school district is proposing to build a new structure compared to alterations, which is renovating the existing areas. Alterations receive more aid.

Using these numbers, the Tamarack Road structure might cost taxpayers roughly $29 million over 20 years.

“It is not the word until the State Education Department has blessed it,” McAward said. “On the last bond issue, I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve moved on from it and learned from it in here. But this is not the fat lady singing.”

The aidable amount changes every academic year. The current ratio is 66 percent. In her 20 years at Port Chester, that number has only increased, McAward explained. The higher the percentage, the more aid a district can receive on a bond. Unfortunately, the state would not begin paying the district back until the district borrows the money, which wouldn’t be until the second half of 2018, if not later. Therefore the aid ratio could potentially change twice before aid is received.

McAward also is not sure if there will be additional BAUs available for the gym and what the cap is on BAUs for building classrooms with a nonspecific function in the new addition, such as rooms with a dual purpose.

“Everyone in this room and who has an investment in this school wants more BAUs,” McAward said. “But I don’t know if I can move a stairwell or if pipes can lay one way or another.”

“I’ve given you the most conservative number that I can give you,” she added.

Fixing up the elementary schools

With the high school finalized, the BAC turned their attention to selecting plans for the elementary schools. Below is a brief overview of the concepts they voted to approve. McAward explained that she would not be able to predict the amount of aid these schools could receive because it would take weeks for her to figure out the number of BAUs in each building.

John F. Kennedy Magnet School: After going back to the drawing board to scale back their original $22 million idea, Fuller and D’Angelo P.C, Architects and Planners came back with a cheaper alternative. Along with extending the existing gym/cafeteria space and updating the media center, Fuller could add nine new classrooms.

There is a large maintenance space that is the hub of operations for the entire district underneath the 2002 wing of classrooms on the south side of the lower school building. This space could be renovated into five classrooms with a new classroom on one end and bathrooms on the other. Two more classrooms would be built on the second floor above the additions.

“It is also a very viable place that you could possibly put classrooms, which would be considered an alteration because it’s an existing space,” architect Joe Fuller said. Therefore this plan would have increased reimbursement.

About $2 million would have to be spent to build a new space for Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Ray Renda, but Fuller already spoke with Renda and together they scouted out potential sites, such as where the busses are kept at Port Chester Middle School.

This plan would cost about $14.7 million. It passed with a vote of 23 for, two against and one person abstaining.

King Street School: By taking out the island in the existing traffic circle, Fuller explained how he could add more parking, which would bring the total number of spaces up to 114. In addition to the much needed parking space, a new gym would be built and two classrooms or four office spaces would be added near King Street. The new gymnasium could be closed off from the rest of the school so it could be used on weekends. This idea would cost $9.9 million and was approved with a vote of 22 for, one against and three abstaining.

Park Avenue School: Four new classrooms would be built; two on the second floor and two on the top floor. The existing structure was built to accommodate these rooms, so that cuts costs down. The media center would also be updated. This would cost $2.67 million and was approved with a vote of 22 for and three abstaining.

Thomas A. Edison School: Due to the lack of space, nothing can be built at Edison. The architects proposed adding an artificial turf field in the playground area as well as updated lighting and some small interior renovations, which would cost about $291,000. The BAC approved it unanimously.

As it stands now and without aid factored in, the proposed bond to pay for all of this work would be around $77,461,000.

One last meeting

With the hopes of cutting down the cost of the $77.5 million bond, the BAC will be looking to trim the fat and vet their proposal before they write a formal recommendation to the Board of Education. One idea to help cut costs is to reduce the size of the new gym at King Street School. The final BAC meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1 in Room 229 at PCHS starting at 7 p.m.

Committee members

The Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee is made up of 30 people. They are Rosemarie Barone, Joan Carriero, Thomas Ceruzzi, Thomas Corbia, Susan-Anne Cosgrove, Kenneth Force, George Ford, Ana Isabel Gonzalez, Stephen Greto, Gregory Guarino, Jody Helmle, Richard Hyman, Maureen Josephson, Joseph Lodato, Laura Luzzi, Heather Mateus, Kevin McFadden, Keith Morlino, Chrissie Onofrio, Denise Quinn, Patricia Rinello, Eric Rios, Elizabeth Rotfeld, Lou Russo, Jennifer Saunders, Debra Scocchera, Stephen Simmons, Patricia Sutton, Daniel Tartaglia and Albert Wesley.

Gonzalez is the chairperson, Simmons is the secretary and Morlino is the alternate chair.