By Sara Brown
Saturday at City Hall, Mayor Dan Rizzo hosted a financial summit meeting about the bond requests for the new McKinley Elementary School.
Rizzo assured the council, “I am not trying to withhold information. I am always here to answer any questions you have. I view this as a joint venture. This is not administration versus the city council. I hope you share in this vision with me and take this leap of faith with us and bring our city into the 21st century when it comes to schools and parks.”
The four bond requests total $55,502,396; however, the city will be responsible for only $26,663,348. The new school is $16,283,348. The land purchases cost $3,000,000. The St. Mary’s fields cost $2,100,000. The McKinley renovations cost $2,500,000, and the new stadium costs $2,780,000.
School Supt. Dr. Paul Dakin spoke about how important schools are to a community: “Schools are a part of a community. Schools address issues in the community. As the schools go, so does the community.”
Architects for the school and financial planners met with the council to discuss the project and how the city will afford it. They also presented plans to the council on how the project will affect tax rates until 2043.
Construction for the new school will begin in early 2014 with an opening in fall of 2015. The construction for the stadium will begin in spring of 2015, and the new fields with begin in either in 2015 or 2016.
While Rizzo and his team assured the council the current planned location for the school is the cheapest option, some councillors doubted that. “I am in disagreement with this being considered the cheapest option,” Councillor-at-Large Brian Arrigo said. “However, there is not much use in looking back.”
Arrigo also worried about the taxpayers. “What is the wow factor for the taxpayers when they open their bill?” he asked.
Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto agreed. “When I look a 78- or 80-year-old taxpayer in the eye [who] can barely pay their taxes, I have to be careful [about] every dollar spent,” he said.
“When the taxpayers open their tax bill, it won’t be much different from what they are looking at right now,” Rizzo replied. “I am not asking to spend money and see nothing in return.”
Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta believes the planning for the new school has been transparent. “There are councillors…saying they didn’t have the numbers. I believe that is disingenuous. If you had been at the meetings—the numbers were there,” Penta said.
Penta also spoke about believing in the project as a whole, including the new stadium. “It’s a disgrace. You can’t have a home [track] meet. It still is. We aren’t second rate citizens,” Penta said. “It’s about time we had an administration thinking like business people.” He added, “It’s not just a Ward 4 school. We are in this together. You are supposed to leave the next generation better [off] than you have it.”
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers said he would vote in favor of a new school but not to refurbish the old McKinley. “We are saying it’s only $2.5 million—2.5 is a lot of money,” he said.