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From Brendan Schweigart

OP-ED: Fillmore Schools FOIL requests shed light

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“The district provided this document only after an appeal of a de-facto denial of a FOIL request.”

By Thomas E. Bower, Fillmore NY

The Fillmore Central School District (FCS) has belatedly sent an “at a glance” pamphlet that notifies district residents of the upcoming $23 Million capital project referendum. The devoid of details pamphlet states some, but not all, of the items included in the project. The pamphlet also contains a QR code that links to a glossy sales pitch video of the Superintendent reiterating the pamphlet with drone footage. The video could make a snake oil salesmen blush.

The district, like all NYS local governmental bodies, is required by the open meetings law to post virtually all documents that are to be presented / discussed at upcoming board meetings. FCS refuses to comply with this law. Amongst the documents presented at a recent board meeting was a “2023 Capital Project Planning” document presented by the project architectural / engineering firm.

The planning document lists the items in the project and their associated cost. The project includes a $2.2 million pre-k classroom addition and a $1.45 million “STEAM/CAD lab addition. The district claims that additional building space is needed for a school census that has fallen by almost fifty percent over the last forty years and the building has approximately 45% additional square footage over that time including many classrooms. Other project items include; $1.794 million building wide air conditioning, $1.672 million to convert some student toilet rooms to gender neutral, $1.247 million to convert existing space to a concession stand, patio & toilet rooms for the athletic field and a $89,000 digital sign for the bus garage.

The project planning document also includes five tennis courts adjacent to the turf field as priority two but is not listed as included in this project. Commonly schools planning projects have additional wish list items that are not disclosed to the public but are completed with money that is magically left over after the other work is completed. The complete “2023 Capital Project Planning” document is available by contacting the district records access officer @ sabbott@fillmorecsd.org.

On a related matter, also obtained via FOIL was the recent FCS financial audit. The audit indicates that FCS has had a nearly $1 million dollar budget surplus four of the last five years.

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