KINDERHOOK–At the September 11 meeting the Ichabod Crane Board of Education came to what Board President Matthew Nelson called a “working consensus” to propose a $27-million capital improvement project. The board did not vote on that final number at the meeting and two board members expressed concern about the amount.
The week before at a workshop meeting on September 5, the board was looking at a $25-million project to upgrade the classrooms–called pods–in the middle school as well as upgrades to the high school math, science and technology classrooms. The plan also includes a road that would connect all three buildings on the campus, storage space in the middle school music suite, a sound booth in the high school auditorium and bleachers on one of the sports fields.
In addition there are several building and infrastructure projects that must be done for the project to be eligible for state aid.
The board originally looked a facilities study that suggested over $40 million in upgrades to the buildings and board members spent several meetings over the summer reviewing the plan to bring that number down and move forward with the most important projects in Phase 1 with the possibility of a Phase 2 of the project in five years from now. The board also held a public information meeting in July and met with the district’s financial adviser to talk about the cost to district taxpayers.
The district put a survey online for residents to fill out with their priorities.
At the meeting this week, the board had new numbers that included work on the roof in the high school auditorium for about $230,000 and upgrades to the middle school gym for almost $5 million. That would include raising the roof, according to representatives from CSArch, the firm the district is using to design the project. That increased the price to $27 million.
Board members who support the plan talked about the local share of the project being closer to $7 million after state aid, which is anticipated to be 73% of the whole cost of the project for the district. And there is about $1.5 million in savings through a proposed Energy Performance Contract, according the CSArch.
The board will have to pass a motion in October to approve moving forward with a special referendum for voters on December 12. The cost would be above the normal school tax, which supports the operating budget for the district, but would be paid for over 15 years.
On September 11, the board looked at numbers including air conditioning. According to CSArch, the cost would be around $3 million. The board said they will look at policies around releasing students due to heat days and how many days the air conditioning is actually used the rooms that do have it, as well as finding out what the ongoing costs would be to have air condition in the schools.
The board did discuss not including a press box in the bleachers in the proposed scope of work and cutting out a line for air quality work in the middle school, since more testing needs to be done.
As they started talking costs, board member Regina Rose said she would like to see the project be closer to $15 million.
“I think $15 million is too small a number,” said board member John Antalek. He and other board members stressed the local share number and talked about what a small increase this would be to property owners’ taxes. He also said, “I’ve been focused on instructional space.”
The board did present numbers from the financial adviser, which said that for a house assessed at $200,000 in the district, the cost for the project would be about $64 a year for a $27-million project. They looked at numbers for $100,000 and $300,000 home assessments as well, with payments ranging from about $26 to $101 a year, according to Mr. Nelson.
“We really have thought about it,” said board member Tammy Crawford of the proposed project. She talked about having a separate vote for the middle school gym. But she also said she’d heard a lot of support for “going big” on project. “The district needs all of this,” Ms. Crawford said.
Board member Dan Cohn also supported the number saying that the work needed to be done and that the board had gone through the project line by line to come up with the proposed amount.
Ms. Rose was concerned about the amount being spent on the math classrooms in the high school and the gym.
Board member Jessica Berner said it was “a one-time increase in taxes” that would get a lot for the district.
“It’s a huge risk,” said board member Jeffery Ouellette, of putting up the $27-million proposal. He also said he would resign from the board if they approve this number. “My number would be no more than $20 million,” he said of a capital project.
Mr. Ouellette pointed out that the district was looking at shrinking enrollment and they were adding square footage to the high school in this proposed project.
Mr. Nelson stressed that this board needs to do this work because boards in the past “kicked the can down the road.” He talked about using the open houses at the schools over the next few weeks to talk about the project scope with parents to see if there is support.
Board members Anthony Welcome and Susan Ramos left the meeting before the board got to the latest cost estimate. Mr. Nelson said he got an email from Ms. Ramos saying she supports the proposal.
The few parents and teachers who stayed at the meeting to the end, which went until after 11 p.m., said they wanted more information on the district website about the project. Mr. Nelson agreed that it was “high time” to get the information out there.
Also at the meeting:
• The board went into a closed door session at the beginning of the meeting. Though they did not say what was discussed in session, that evening a district-wide email was sent to parents saying, “It was brought to the attention of Ichabod Crane administration that a high school student had made a post on social media that was considered threatening to the High School.” The message went on say that the school contacted the county Sheriff’s Office “and they began conducting a full investigation of the possible threat. As a result of the thorough investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in collaboration with school administration, it has been determined that there is no credible threat against any of the schools or students.” Information was also posted on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org
• The board heard from Transportation Supervisor Dan Doyle about issues on the first day of school with students finding their buses and also dealing with a power outage at dismissal time. “Each day has gotten better,” he said of the one bus run system the district is now using
• The board recognized new teachers to the district and teachers that received tenure at the beginning of meeting.
The next regular meeting is Tuesday, October 2 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email email@example.com