Discrepancies leading to confusion among administrators marked an Onteora Central School District board of education meeting Tuesday, June 18, as trustees reviewed a 55-page study on the Belleayre Resort development and its possible school revenue impact.
The report, entitled Socioeconomic and Fiscal Conditions and Effects, by AKRF Environmental and Planning Consultants on behalf of the proposed resort’s developers, Crossroads Ventures. The project is estimated to cost $364 million, with an outcome of two-year round hotels and conference facilities including a family style resort and a high-end spa, a golf course and ski-in and ski-out tie-ins with the state owned, ORDA run Belleayre Ski Center.
Assistant Superintendent for business Victoria McLaren presented projected school revenue and had questions. “In looking at their document,” said McLaren, “they’ve projected the tax revenue for the school district for each one of the potential resorts and we’re just confused by the impact that’s being presented…”
Tax revenue charts project separate lines of district income from both the proposed Highmount Resort and the Wildacres Resort for the Onteora School District. But the line for Highmount’s tax payments to Onteora says $0, while the resort would pay $49 in 2014 for Onteora Library Tax. “It’s pretty much impossible for the Onteora library tax to be collected without it being included on the school tax bill,” McLaren said. “There is no way to separate the library tax from the school tax. I’ve not had any particular contact with the people who put this together so I don’t know what they were thinking.”
The Margaretville School district, as listed in the report, doesn’t have a separate library tax, but it looks to gain the most revenue if these hotels are constructed. In 2014 the projected revenue from the resort to the Margaretville School District would be $319,243 and $11,699 in the Delaware County portion of the district and $995,953 from the Ulster County portion.
Onteora superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill said she had just learned that a portion of the Margaretville school district is in Shandaken in Ulster County. After meeting with Gary Gailes consultant for Crossroads Ventures, McGill learned that, “80 percent of the construction was occurring within our school district, but we were only going to get 20 percent of the tax benefit, so we know we need to pursue this more so that we can feel comfortable with the numbers.” McGill thought it might have to do with the placement of the buildings themselves, “but I think were going to want to make sure that we agree with these numbers, because right now we don’t, we are really just confused by it.” Trustee Tony Fletcher pointed out that Onteora had a $50 million budget and Margaretville district had a $10 million budget.
McLaren said this possible new tax revenue will not increase the total amount of taxes collected. “It will just displace the taxes from other residences,” she said. Fletcher wondered what the extra cost would be to educate new students without the extra revenue. “If we’re getting the significant minority of tax revenue from this, is there a chance we may get a majority of students?” The board has directed McGill to contact Crossroads and County Executive Mike Hein to verify that the data is accurate.
In other news…
Woodstock Parent Gideon Moor spoke during public commentary about Woodstock School’s first grade having reached maximum classroom capacity. “There are two sections of first graders,” he said. “Those classes are quite full, there are 25 children per section. One of the sections is co-taught, they’re wonderful children but the classes are quite full and at that age it’s a handful, and [in] this particular population, quite a number of kids have special needs, behavior or other issues.” He called it a “challenge” for teachers, noting that his daughter is in first going into second grade and was hoping to have some relief. The second grade currently has three teachers. However for next year it is projected to be reduced to two. He said School Board President Ann McGillicuddy gave him current enrollment numbers for the second grade next year projecting 24 students for each class. Moor asked McGill to reconsider by keeping three classrooms. He said, “We haven’t yet had summer enrollment and there probably could be mid-year enrollment as well.” Earlier during the meeting McGill said she attended a PTA meeting and heard from concerned parents. “Right now we are very closely monitoring enrollment and all the grades K-through-six, I’m pleased to say we are within class size guidelines for desirable range for class sizes.”
The board approved the Onteora Non-Teaching Supervisors Association contract covering the period of July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2016. Non-Teaching Supervisors consist of the Lunch Manager, Director of Facilities and Operations, Director of Transportation, and Head Custodian. Throughout this time employees will receive a two percent yearly raise and their health care benefit contribution will increase from 10 to 15 percent.
The board approved a $12.4 million distribution of funds throughout district reserve accounts. This includes topping off the voter-approved capital reserve fund for a maximum of $5 million, repair reserve for $2.8 million, employee retirement reserve for $2.6 million, and $505,000 in unemployment insurance.
Asbestos Abatement will continue throughout the summer at the Middle/High School. The board approved $102,000 for removal and an additional $89,000 for reconstruction work.