Building some trust for project

Newsmaker of the month: Rare rejection

Building projects for area schools almost always are a waste of taxpayer dollars. Just how much expansion do we need at small schools such as Forestville, Brocton and Westfield where student enrollment has plummeted?

School boards and administrators often tout the state aid formula, which can be up to 90 percent of the total project and a dip into the district’s reserve fund. The total cost to taxpayers for the Taj Mahal effort? Absolutely no local dollars in the building stages.

Usually, those statements are correct. But there is always a cost to residents who approve the sometimes unnecessary building. If the state is chipping, you’re paying for it. If the district is dipping into reserves, you have already paid a price.

Once construction is complete, local entities bear the brunt of maintenance, electricity and heat. Small price to pay, but when districts always talk about how “bare bones” their budgets are annually, you have to wonder if it was a good investment.

In the past decade, rarely has a building project been defeated. But there is one skeptical set of residents — those in the Gowanda district. During this month’s vote, the capital project failed. It was definitely tied to some doubt.

What began as a $41.5 million project was whittled down to $31 million in March, above. But that 25 percent decrease left plenty of questions. How do you cut a project that is needed that quickly? Why was it so big from the start?

Gowanda is a vibrant and diverse district. It deserves to grow.

But voters lost some faith — and are not satisfied with the answers and alternatives. It will be interesting to see how the district moves forward from here.

TO COMMENT ON THE NEWSMAKER OF THE MONTH, send an e-mail to editorial@observertoday.com

or to suggest a Newsmaker of the month, contact us at 366-3000, ext. 401.