RV school district hosts public Q&A for capital budget proposal - BlueStone Press
June 25, 2019
Rondout

RV school district hosts public Q&A for capital budget proposal

RVSD Bond Vote 12/11

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On the evening of Nov. 8, Rondout Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morgan gave a presentation along with a question-and-answer session on the proposed capital project budget of $61,800,00. The public had many questions and kept asking them until the time was up.

Morgan began with stating the district goals of having a safe and healthy learning environment and said that the proposed project is focused on energy efficiency and long-term financial stability. The scope includes many things, including but not limited to roofs, parking lots and a turf football field with lights. The water fountains will be replaced with new ones that have filters and bottle fillers. Parts of the sewer system under the middle school are collapsing, so the plan is to replace and reroute them out from under the building. Oil fired boilers are proposed to be replaced in three of the buildings, and the energy efficiency of the new boilers is projected to reduce oil use by half. Replacing lighting with LED lights is an energy savings, as is replacing the windows and sealing the building envelope. New electric panels are needed in the middle school and both elementary schools. The middle school will have the kitchen renovated for more storage and additional serving stations. An upgrade to the lecture center including additional seating to accommodate an entire class. Secure door hardware that includes ADA-compliant door handles will be installed on all the doors for added security.

The project will be done in three phases. Roofs and paving would likely be first because the NYS Education Department approves those types of projects quickly, so that work is projected for 2019. The turf field, track and stadium lights along with boilers and HVAC work will be in the second phase, along with other building work; and phase three would be finishing up.

The project will be funded through a combination of using available fund balance and borrowing.

Q&A session

Q. Why weren’t sections of the windows done at a time and put in the budget? A lot of us are senior citizens, and we don’t get hundreds of dollars in our Social Security.

A. “Because if you put it in the budget and pay for it out of the general fund, you won’t receive state aid,” said Morgan, who answered most of the questions during the session.

Comment: A lot of these issues are long-term issues, and probably should have been addressed 10 to 15 years ago. These are energy issues, and there are a lot of energy-efficiency grants available.

A. That is part of the cost mitigation, having the NYSERDA grants.

Q. How much energy savings would we get?

A. Just with the new LED lights and the boiler replacement, energy costs will be reduced by $243,000 per year over 15 years.

Q. How much debt are we carrying?

A. $14 million, all of which will be paid off by 2025.

Q. Can you tell me how this compares to five years ago when the last assessment was done? Is this huge? It is a fair amount of money, but children should not be in this situation. The athletic fields are opportunities that the students just wouldn’t have, but as it is now the fields could cause accidents.

A. It’s middle of the road; less money than some districts, more than others.

Q. Could we be part of a cooperative to share fields with other places?

A. SUNY New Paltz rented fields to us last year but has limited availability.

A. “You asked why we didn’t do any building projects; well, our community couldn’t afford it at the time,” school board president Breanna Casey said. “We had to constrict, we had to reduce our footprint, and so we did. So there is a limit to how much work we can put in. We went through the building conditions survey line by line. I wish the list (of projects getting done) was longer. I want to respond to the turf field. There are things that we can do with that, we can host events here. There are things we can do to boost our community and generate revenue – I think it is going to bring our school to life. The challenge is that there are expenses and there are revenues. Every year when we work on budgets I look for ways for us to generate revenue. There are so few ways to generate revenue, but this is one, and it is something to look into.”

Q. If this gets voted down, what happens?

A. The Facilities Committee will put the project back up for another vote, or wait for another building conditions survey.

Comment: For the lock sets that you want to replace, presumably so no one gets in, all you have to do is drill a hole in front of it and put in a 2-inch pin, because they open in, and nobody will get in.

Q. You said the warranty ran out on the roofs. When did that happen?

A. Typical lifespan of a roof is 25 years.

Q. What is the current enrollment?

A. A total of 1,965 students.

Q. What is the general trend on that? Is it going up or is it going down?

A. My understanding is that it has stabilized.

Q. Are all the roofs being replaced?

A. There are roofs on every building being replaced. Some portions of roofs are newer than others, but all the gravel roofs are being replaced.

Q. I just finished paying my taxes; was none of this included in all those thousands of dollars?

(No direct response.)

Q. How much of the project is aidable?

A. Eighty-five percent of the project is aidable. Site work and parking lots are not fully aidable. That’s why we are at 55 percent.

Q. You said they would pay 55 percent. How does that work? How much are we actually paying?

A. The building aid will cover 55 percent of the debt payment. That is how they do it. It is not a lump sum. They compute it into a “run,” and over time the state helps us make those payments.

Q. So what is it really going to cost?

A. It will cost the taxpayers $25 million, but since it is a debt, there is interest.

Comment: I asked for a simple hard copy of the proposal but was told it is not available. If you look at this project, there is no itemization. If you ask for the cost of the electronic scoreboard, I think you would be appalled. That is why they don’t itemize things. Everything is highly inflated; there is a presumption that there is a big ball of money, the taxpayers’ money, which is just there for the taking. When they say $8 per $100,000 it just doesn’t work out that way, there are always variables.

Comment: It was mentioned that we have debt services dropping off in the next year or two, so that will offset this increase to the taxpayer. If people knew that the impact was going to be less than what you are showing, that’s important.

Q. Did you make sure that there are no hidden surprises like asbestos?

A. Yes, it is in the project. We do take into account cost escalation, because costs rise, and we do cost allowances. We take into consideration the “oh no,” and we don’t have to borrow the whole amount, the cost referendum is just a ceiling for the amount we can borrow.

Q. Why can’t we scale it down? Maybe do the roof and wait a couple of years, and don’t hit it so hard.

A. “I’ve heard some frustration such as ‘why haven’t we done this,’” said Casey. “I want to say that we had a major fiscal challenge a few years ago and came to the difficult decision to close a school. We reduced our staff by 25 percent. We did that hard work because enrollment had dropped and we saw that our community couldn’t support our schools as they were financially.”

Comment: There’s a need, there’s a cost, and the impact isn’t as great as what is shown. I applaud you.

 

The capital budget vote will be held 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 11 at the district office.

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