$52.9 Million Renovation Bond Back On The Ballot

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

After the initial failure of the $52.9 million bond proposal, the New Paltz Board of Education attempted to seek other ways to address the decrepit infrastructure of the New Paltz Middle School. Techniques such as creating a hotline where New Paltz residents can send their comments and suggest solutions to the issue were implemented.

According to an article in The New Paltz Times, New Paltz Board of Education Trustee Dominick Profaci said that the public generally thought that there was a lack of comfort that “due diligence” was exhibited by the board. Profaci said what is important now is to make certain that the needed information to reassure the public of the board’s diligence is available.

According to Ruth Quinn, vice president of the Board of Education, this issue has been ongoing for two years and the board has been challenging its members to create a plan that would be affordable and would update the building infrastructure and provide benefits to the students, as these decaying infrastructures are a serious health hazard.

“School district votes are the most democratic part of our government,” New Paltz Town Councilman Daniel Torres said. “When the town passes its budget, the requirement is three votes out of a five member board. For a school district, you need four board members to agree and then a public referendum. There is no other governing entity in New York State where that happens.”

Quinn said the board considered three things after the bond was initially voted down: the cost of delaying the project and the timing issues, the needs of the facilities and the responses of over 100 community members who replied to their request for feedback.

“The majority of feedback indicated that there was confusion about the master plan,” Quinn said. “Since the issues that the community identified were not about the cost of the project, and delaying the project would cause the cost to increase, the Board of Education decided to put the same bond back without modification in the hopes that we could provide more information to the community about all the options and data that we reviewed.”

According to Quinn, the buildings need infrastructure upgrades and delaying the project puts the operational budget at risk if an emergency repair becomes necessary. Quinn said the board has data which shows the bond project is the best solution to address the needs of the taxpayer while also providing significant educational benefits to the students by taking care of the health and safety issues as well as the educational space issues.

“The option of just doing an infrastructure-only bond for the middle school was rejected because it would be a ‘BandAid’ at best,” Quinn said. “It would not adequately address air quality and ventilation issues as well as capacity issues. Instead we opted to do a comprehensive renovation of the middle school along with infrastructure repairs to all four buildings.”

Torres said from the standpoint of a town board member, he recognizes that the town board can choose to put money aside for issues such as finding a new town hall whereas the school board must publicize all of their financial actions. According to Torres, a lot of confusion from the public is understandable because a lot of rules that apply to school renovation would not be applicable to private building projects.

“At the end of the day there is a real facility issue that needs to be addressed. People will argue what that should look like, but it still means that something has to be done,” Torres said. “It is not like a general building project, it’s not the same as someone who wants to renovate their home; it is a public school project. It is confusing for people to understand that in projects like this, renovation is often more cost effective than rebuilding due to state aid formulas.”

The bond will be up for voting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2015 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“The reality is that the people who voted no last time will vote no again. The people who voted yes last time will vote yes again.  I expect we will see a larger turnout this time around and we will see what happens,” Torres said.