The purpose of this post is to help our community understand the process of developing a capital project and about how the financing works. This is not a simple post–it’s a complicated, lengthy topic and I will do my best to keep it straightforward. Please know that I write this in an effort to be transparent about our process. When my mom was alive she always provided me with feedback about my blog posts. She definitely would have said this one is TOO LONG and BORING. 😉
Our BOE is considering two contingent propositions for possible presentation for a public vote on March 24, 2015.
In the summer of 2013 the Randolph Board of Education and I began the process of evaluating and planning for a proposed capital project. Every district conducts a five year plan that is submitted to the NYS Education Department and in that plan, we analyze all aspects of our buildings and grounds to identify and prioritize our areas of need. Good planning means identifying critical items and then putting them together in a capital project to minimize the local share of expenses–in our case an approved capital project that meets all of the guidelines of NYSED will result in about an 83.5% state share.
For Randolph Central, the structural, health and safety items –critical items– at this time include things such as replacing pumps, balancing valves, upgrade ventilation, replacing steam piping, improving state lighting controls and replacing stage rigging. The items also include things like replacement floors, a handicap toilet room in the elementary school, security cameras, urinal replacements, a few rooftop replacements, track replacement and some ADA required interior door hardware. I often refer to these items as the “non-glamorous” items, those things we NEED to take care of to be good stewards of our facilities and grounds.
The first possible proposition that the BOE is considering putting before the public for a vote, our essential NEED based items total almost $3 million dollars. Those items, from the very beginning in the summer of 2013, have been our priority. Taking care of what we already have and maintaining it–that’s what the BOE has directed me to do from day one in considering a project.
In planning any project, community input is valuable. We put out notices asking for volunteers to work with us. The BOE members and I formed a facilities committee to consider any other needs and or wants that we may have as a school district that would improve our facilities, our programs, or our services to students and the community.
A well meaning group of people met with us through the fall and winter of the 2013-14 school year to brainstorm those things that would improve our school district. No one’s ideas were immediately dismissed and everything from a swimming pool to a community center to new sports fields were discussed. The BOE facilities committee then met with me throughout the spring and summer to consider those suggestions and to try to determine the best course of action.
A major priority from the beginning of our work was to improve the traffic flow, configuration and parking on our campus. The safety of our students and community are our #1 priority, along with the essential NEED based items described above. A lengthy process began in which we evaluated many different options for improving traffic flow with parent drop off locations, bus only zones, clear student walkways, and more parking. For a long time we talked about a demolition of the bus garage that sits right in the middle of our campus. We ultimately determined that this was not something everyone could support.
The final traffic flow plan drastically improves the safety of our campus while maintaining our existing bus garage. This plan, to be detailed in upcoming capital project presentations, totals about $4 million dollars.
The reality of financing always comes in to play and determining what we as a district and our taxpayers can afford is critical. Think about that 83.5% state share I mentioned in the beginning; where’s the other 17% coming from? We then look at our capital reserves and any unappropriated excess reserves we may have to determine how much we have that can be used to offset the cost to the local taxpayers. To keep it simple, all of that planning results in a project that we can put forward to the taxpayers of about $7 million dollars that will result in a minimal local share. How minimal? This $7 million project would result in a .65% increase or about $2 per year more on an $60,000 home for taxpayers with STAR; a zero increase for Senior STAR taxpayers; and for taxpayers who don’t have STAR because it’s a non-primary residence, it’s about $4 per year added to your taxes on a $60,000 home.
The BOE members are in the final stages of preparing to adopt a resolution to bring this project to the taxpayers. In addition they are considering putting forth a second, contingent (cannot pass unless the first proposition passes) proposition to the voters for a synthetic turf multipurpose field. While there were many other ideas from our original facilities committee that would be improvements for our district, the cost to our taxpayers precludes us from advancing any of them.
A second possible proposition for a mulipurpose synthetic turf field has been much more difficult for our BOE members to agree to put to the taxpayers. Their dedication to maintaining a fair and reasonable tax levy (share of our budget that is paid for by the local taxpayers) is at odds with the consideration of a proposition to build something that would be NICE to have but isn’t necessarily something we HAVE to have. The BOE’s dedication to this is unquestionable as they have maintained a 0% increase to our taxpayers every year since the 2009-10 school year. That’s six years that our taxpayers have not had an increase, including two years of decreases.
Some think we should leave the decision of a synthetic turf multipurpose field up to the taxpayers. Put the Proposition #2 up for a vote separate from our Proposition #1, NEEDs based project. What kind of money would a separate proposition for this cost? It would be about an additional $2.6 million dollars. The addition of this proposition would result in the cost to the taxpayers increasing to a 4.37% total increase or about $13 per year more on a $60,000 home for taxpayers with STAR; a zero increase for Senior STAR taxpayers; for taxpayers who don’t have STAR because it’s a non-primary residence, it’s about $25 per year added to your taxes on a $60,000 home.
Taxpayers can rest assured that a BOE decision to put a project to the public for a vote has been thoroughly researched and considered. More to follow, look for a BOE discussion and vote on a resolution at the February 4, 2015 BOE meeting with a proposed March vote by the taxpayers.