Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 23, 2014

City school district could sell Hunt Elementary building

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There is an interested buyer in the former Washington Hunt Elementary School building and Lockport City School District voters could be voting on the potential sale in May.

If the sale is to happen, residents would have to approve it as a proposition at the district’s annual budget vote on May 20. Board members would have to vote by the end of March to place it on the ballot.

Board of Education members were given a first look at the 2014-15 school year budget Wednesday by Deborah Coder, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance. Coder said the budget vote could have a few extra items on the ballot for voters to consider, such as the sale of Hunt. The other possible propositions include setting up a $10 million capital project reserve, a possible capital project that would address minor fixups across the district and school tax exemptions for veterans.

Coder said the buyer was in the process of dealing with “red tape” and finding financing. She declined to give details on the buyer, but did say it was a neighborhood friendly entity.

”If it were detrimental to the neighborhood, we wouldn’t sell it,” Coder said.   

Washington Hunt closed in June after the conclusion of the 2012-13 school year. The building, which once housed 250 or so kids, would have been too costly to maintain.

Hunt was one of three Lockport schools that were not ADA compliant, the other two being DeWitt Clinton and John Pound. Clinton was closed two years before Hunt and is now owned by Head Start of Niagara County while Pound was transformed into the district’s early childhood center.

As far as the budget is concerned, the Board of Education learned there is no rollover in regard to New York’s tax levy cap law.

Currently, the budget stands at just under $87.6 million, an increase of about $4.5 million in spending. State aid is expected to rise by $1.3 million to $40.8 million, at least according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

As of now, Lockport is planning to use $2.4 million from its reserves and $2 million from its appropriated fund balance. The tax levy limit is just over $36 million, an increase of 2.267 percent.

But, as the numbers stand right now, that leaves a gap of about $2.8 million. But there are certain things the district is waiting on, such as retirements which Lockport won’t known for sure until Feb. 1.

It’s early and those numbers will change, said Board President John Linderman.

• Linderman said the scheduled 7 p.m. meeting for Feb. 12 will be moved to Feb. 10.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.