TH learns its share for Questar Ed Center

CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills School District will be hit with a whopping 23% increase in costs to support construction of a new Questar III educational center, effective with the 2017-18 budget, the school board learned at its January 18 meeting.

In a slide presentation, Questar III Deputy Superintendent Harry Hadjioannou outlined the financial impact, which increases the district’s net costs by $16,083. According to school Business Manager Cybil Howard, annual past increases have been “2% or less.”

Regarding future increases, in a follow-up email Ms. Howard wrote: “An increase will be annual but the amount could change based on Questar’s budget and the level of BOCES aid received by the Questar component school districts. I cannot say for certain the amount will be the same every year.”

The new facility will be located off Exit 11 on I-90, where it meets US Route 20 in Rensselaer County. Taconic Hills Superintendent Neil Howard Jr., who served on the site selection committee, says the new facility will afford a “fair amount of versatility” as program needs adapt to prepare students for future economies, a point also emphasized by Questar III District Superintendent Dr. Gladys Cruz in her presentation. Dr. Cruz also noted that the new facility is more centrally located for member school districts than the current educational center in Troy.

She said the new facility is 60,000 square feet–7,000 square feet larger than the one in Troy. Construction on the new facility is projected to begin late summer or early fall, with occupancy scheduled to begin in September 2018. The estimated construction cost is approximately $13 million. No decision about what to do with the current site has been made yet.

THSD board President Nadine Gazzola was appointed to the Questar III board in July 2016 for a five-year term. Questar III is the regional BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). It serves all the public school districts in Columbia County as well as several districts in Greene and Rensselaer counties.

In other financial news, Ms. Howard informed the board that the district likely will see a 1% increase, or almost $70,000 in Foundation Aid in the state budget now being prepared. Foundation Aid, first enacted in 2007-08, is the largest unrestricted aid category supporting public school district expenditures in the state budget.

The district is in the market for new playground equipment. Director of Facilities Nicholas Smith offered a slide presentation of possible new equipment including a Spinner Bowl, Explorer Dome and Tower with Mega Deck. He identified three potential vendors: Kompon Equipment, Super Nova and Game Time. Preference will be given to vendors that will both provide the equipment and install it, he said. Projected costs are $200,000.

Cook Manager Pamela Strompf expressed some frustration trying to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations that all food and its packaging come from American companies. She noted that the USDA does not always comply with its own regulations. When asked about the consequences of non-compliance, Ms. Strompf said the district could lose from $30-$40,000 a month in reimbursements from the federal agriculture department.

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