G’town voters nix $11.3M capital project

GERMANTOWN—Voters in the Germantown Central School District rejected an $11.3-million capital project Tuesday by a vote of 312 in favor of the project versus 345 against it, a difference of 33 votes.

The project consisted of 26 individual components that addressed what the Community Facilities Committee and the Board of Education considered necessary for the maintenance of the school building, the district’s chief asset, on Main Street in the Germantown hamlet.

Possibly the voting public considered a line item for a walking path around the athletic fields ($25,000), to promote community fitness, a luxury. But likely the most contentious part of the proposal was a 27th component, consisting of a new 400-seat auditorium, new band and theater arts rooms, spectator seating in the elementary school gymnasium and relocating the basketball court and playground to make room for the auditorium, all for $6.2 million.

The only other item over $1 million was renovating the baseball and softball fields, for $1,054,944.

Board of Education members expressed a range of feelings Tuesday night after the polls had closed.

“I’m disappointed that the capital project didn’t pass,” said board vice-president Tammi Kallenbenz, who has two children in the district. “I think the auditorium would have been a great asset to the entire community. I hope to work with board to put together something that will appeal to the community.”

“That vote is much closer than I expected,” said board member Jeremy Smith, whose late wife, Cynthia, taught in the district. “I had thought it would go down by more,” said Mr. Smith, who had expressed reservations about the auditorium in board meetings and been absent from the meeting that sent the bond act to the voters. “I’m pleased for the other side,” he said.

“We have to look at the list now,” he continued. “We can’t afford to have some of those other projects fall by wayside. We have to re-look at the whole thing.”

Board president Ron Moore and board member Ralph DelPozzo both commented that over 600 voters was a very good turnout in the district, which includes all or part of six towns.

“I thought it would go down big,” said Mr. DelPozzo, whose family has a long connection with the school, as students and teachers. “A lot of seniors showed up,” he said, and “a lot of people I spoke to were upset that everything was in one vote. They would have rather seen the repairs on one ballot, the addition on the other. But who knows. The people have spoken.”

Superintendent Susan L.S. Brown released a statement Tuesday night that thanked the volunteers who served on the Community Facilities Committee. Beginning in February 2014 they studied facility-related information and heard and evaluated input from a broad range of community groups over nine months.

They made their recommendations to the board in October 2014. After further refinement, in January 2015 the board voted to present a proposal to the district’s voters. CFC members and other volunteers then worked to inform residents about the proposed project.

The goal, Ms. Brown said in her statement, was to develop “a comprehensive project designed to provide a safe and secure environment in which all students engage in high-quality programs that promote life-long wellness, respond to student interest and maintain the school as the center of the community.”

The superintendent and the board also thanked all the residents “who came to the school to express their vote today.”

The board’s regular meeting, scheduled for March 11, was postponed to Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. The boys’ varsity basketball team, Class D Section 2 champions, was scheduled for the regional semifinals at Saratoga High School at 7 p.m. on March 11, and board members and the superintendant wanted to attend.

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