One of the most important questions the Board of Education asks when investigating capital projects for the school district is "how much of this will be borne by our local property taxpayers, and how much will be paid by funding through state aid?" It's also one of the most frequently asked questions by the public, along with "what if we don't get the aid?"
Let's start with the second one first, because that's easy. The State Of New York has never failed to deliver its aid to school capital projects. It has never reduced its capital aid, even when other forms of aid have been cut during fiscal crises, and many times throughout its history, it has been increased. It is a matter of state law, not agency regulation that could be changed by a bureaucracy. There is no hint from the Governor, any state legislator, or staff at the State Education Department that any decreases are even in a stage of contemplation. There is no possibility that the aid for which our district qualifies, on both the construction costs and the interest on the loans, will not be paid.
The first question is complicated a bit by a legitimate concern: "why is the aid rate the Board of Education is providing to the public an estimate, and how can it be considered accurate without detailed designs that have been approved by the state?" A critical part of the answer is "because fully designing a project of this size to a bid-ready state costs around $2.5 to 3 million dollars." That requires full design costs to be part of the bond, since no funds remotely on that scale for non-educational purposes exist within an operating budget, nor would it be a wise expenditure, since, if the bond vote fails, that substantial amount of taxpayer money would be lost. And even then, the cost that the state reimburses depends not on bid estimates, but actual final purchase costs of materials and labor through completion of the project, and the actual interest on loans taken to pay those bills.
For these reasons, the standard practice used by all school districts in New York State is to develop estimates based on known expenditures on the hundreds of projects under way and recently completed -- information available on the State Education Department website -- according to the expertise of school architects and engineers, school construction managers, and school business managers, including our own Rick Linden, whose record with estimating other projects during his tenure, as well as our annual budgets, has been perfect. The estimates have been reviewed for accuracy by multiple professionals, with similar track records both within our district and statewide, all of whom are in full agreement.
The public can have full faith and confidence in the estimated numbers being presented, that the standard state aid portion will be delivered, and that the process used has been the proven, accepted standard.