“Capital Project” Bond Vote Rescheduled Amidst Controversy

The New Paltz Central School District’s Board of Education has rescheduled the “Capital Project” bond vote, which was set to be held Tuesday, Jan. 27, after it was cancelled because of the winter storm.

The board voted during a special meeting the night of Wednesday Jan. 28 to have the new Capital Project vote on Tuesday, March 24, with polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at New Paltz High School at 130 S. Putt Corners Road.

The bond proposal itself is the same $52.9 million plan that the voters rejected last October.

The bond money would be divided into multiple renovation projects aimed to improve the educational environment of the students, according to Board of Education Vice President Ruth Quinn.

“We looked for a solution that would satisfy the needs of all the students, the taxpayers and the town,” Quinn said.

Once fully paid back — with interest — the bond will amount to $72.6 million. Part of this would be paid with state aid, part with reserves and the majority with a tax levy that would increase the current levy by one percent.

This bond proposal is one of four that were considered by the board during initial deliberation prior to the October vote. According to literature on the board’s webpage, the bond is cheaper than the other three, all of which involved the consolidation of school buildings as opposed to renovating each building individually.

The October bond vote was rejected by a margin of only 150 votes, just less than six percent of votes cast.

Quinn cited three reasons for why the proposal was not changed: the school buildings still have issues that need repair, the cost of the various projects will rise if their start is delayed and because — it is believed — some votes against the project were due to voter misunderstanding of the plan due to a lack of information.

An anonymous letter received by many community members, dated Oct. 22, 2014, presented information about the bond and its impacts on the community both physically and financially, some of which critics allege were inaccurate. Much of the community feedback surrounding the October vote noted this letter as a reason why some voted against the bond.

A second, similar document was sent out to the community again prior to the scheduled date of the January vote.

School board member Tim Rogers said the author(s) of the letter confused the state aid rate with the school district’s borrowing cost estimate which “is greater than current borrowing costs and was used to offer a buffer while projecting the tax impact for the community because bonds will not be secured until after the segments of the plan they’re financing are completed.”

Rogers said this may have resulted in miscalculations but is hopeful voters will approve of the bond proposal come March 24.

The second letter’s author(s) also made direct criticism of the proposal.

“This plan is still a bad plan,” the January letter reads. “Significant infrastructure repairs will be left undone, thereby assuring an additional bond vote in a few short years. Merely repairing aging infrastructure will not give our children and teachers the healthy and modern learning environment they deserve.”