UTICA — Utica residents are being asked to vote on three capital propositions totaling about $15 million to improve school district athletic facilities — referendums that, if passed, would lead to a tax increase.
Members of the school board announced the Aug. 14 vote Thursday at a news conference at the district administration building. The board will host five community meetings on the propositions this summer to educate the public and encourage residents to vote.
“We want the public to look at this and tell us what they want us to do,” said board Vice President Donald Dawes.
The projects are works that should have, in some cases, been done years ago, Dawes said. The football field at Thomas R. Proctor High School is at least five years past its effective date, he said.
“But we’re living on borrowed time,” he said.
John F. Kennedy Middle School’s football field is in worse shape than many local backyards and the school doesn’t have a track, he said.
“It’s only right that they have a field that's safe that they can play at,” said board member Evon Ervin, noting that Proctor athletes have to change in the cold because they don’t have locker rooms at D'Alessandro Stadium.
“Sometimes to get something, you have to give something,” she said of the tax increase that would follow the referendum’s passage.
Officials pointed out that improvements to the school’s athletic facilities also would benefit gym classes, community sports leagues and the public.
A $187 million capital project to upgrade buildings, technology and academics, passed in 2008, will wind up by the end of the year. Due to state aid, that project did not result in a tax increase.
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Outdoor athletic facilities were the one big thing not covered by that initiative, officials said.
“We’re just trying to put the missing piece to the puzzle,” said board President Louis LaPolla.
The state, however, is not expected to pick up most of the bill for the athletic improvements, so taxes will go up if the propositions pass, he said. The likely amount of that increase, which would hit in next year’s budget, hasn’t been calculated yet, but will be available by the first of the town hall meetings, LaPolla said.
Construction work would begin in 2019.
Under the first $5.9 million proposition, work at Proctor would include a new field house with storage, locker rooms and public restrooms; a lower concession stand; artificial turf replacement; track resurfacing or replacement; a new scoreboard and minor building renovations. The stadium currently relies on portable toilets and athletes have to remain outside between halves.
The second $4.7 million proposition would improve athletic facilities at JFK and Sen. James Donovan Middle School, including track and infield reconstruction and portable bleachers.
The third $4.3 million proposition includes field reconstruction at both middle schools; and an upper concession stand, stadium lighting replacement, practice field reconstruction and a support building with storage for the practice field at Proctor.
Donovan last saw resconstruction work done in the early 1990s and JFK’s athletic facilities haven’t benefited from any major projects in more than 30 years.
Approval of the second proposition is contingent on passage of the first; approval of the third is contingent on approval of the first and the second. All three propositions require 60 percent support to pass.
If the referendum doesn’t pass, some of the work still would have to be done due to the age and condition of some of the facilities, but it would have to be funded through the district’s annual budget without any state building aid, officials said.
Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).