Lisbon super says electric bus mandate, lack of state aid hurt vote
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
LISBON – Lisbon Central School Superintendent Patrick Farrand said the state’s electric bus mandate and a lack of state aid were likely major contributors to voters rejecting a $16 million capital improvement project Tuesday.
The project failed 156 to 146, and Farrand said the district is among the first in the state dealing with the unintended consequences of the electric bus mandate without adequate funding to support the initiative.And while the vote appears close, Farrand noted that a super majority was needed for approval, which means 60% of participating voters plus one. In this case it would have taken 182 votes to pass.
“We are one of the very first schools that have seen what planning ahead for this conversion looks like. The price is too high. If the state isn’t adequately aiding in that storage cost the taxpayers aren’t going to support it,” he said.
The capital project’s estimated cost was $16,174,000, with $500,000 supplied from district reserves.
The project was eligible for state aid reimbursement up to 80%, meaning that approximately $2.7 million would have been levied to taxpayers over a 30-year span.
But it’s important to note that the project would have been eligible for 96.5% state aid, if it did not include a bus garage.
The difference for a taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 jumps from about $13 per year to $90 per year due to the difference in aid.
Farrand said that the bus garage is needed as the state is forcing districts to convert to electric buses, which must be stored inside.
Although the district currently uses combustible buses, it’s required to convert to an electric fleet over the next decade.
“You can’t really store electric buses outside,” he said.
Farrand said that he believes there may also be confusion among the public that the plan to convert to an electric fleet is a district decision, when in reality it’s a state mandate.
Farrand said he’s hopeful state lawmakers will take a look at the building aid formula to ensure adequate funding is available for the conversion as other districts will likely be looking at similar projects and may see similar results.
“We are disappointed by today’s vote, but we appreciate everyone who came out to let their voice be heard on this proposal,” Farrand said.
Although the project will be put on hold for the time being, Farrand said district officials will continue to focus on the district’s immediate need to support the transportation issues.
Other items in the proposed capital project include improvements to the district’s main school building – including replacing some existing windows, floor tiles and heating ventilators, as recommended by the 2021 Building Condition Survey.
Every five years, school districts are required by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to complete a Building Condition Survey. The Building Condition Survey requires schools to contract with an architect firm to identify all aspects of infrastructure including items in need of improvement.
Farrand said the board could choose to hold another vote after 90 days, but can only bring it the project or revised version before the taxpayers two times in a given year.
He said the school board would likely discuss how they will proceed at the next school board meeting.