A tour of New Paltz Middle School reveals a failing facility

Kitchen equipment in the New Paltz Middle School is antiquated and replacement parts are obsolete. This central kitchen serves the entire district. Pictured is NPCSD food service director Mike Robinson.

Kitchen equipment in the New Paltz Middle School is antiquated and replacement parts are obsolete. This central kitchen serves the entire district. Pictured is NPCSD food service director Mike Robinson.

Voters in New Paltz on Tuesday, October 28 will be asked to support the New Paltz Central School District’s $52.9 million proposed capital improvement project to address the aged infrastructure and insufficiencies at its four school facilities. The vote will be held in the high school gymnasium from noon to 9 p.m.

New Paltz Times was recently invited to tour the middle school in order to view the condition of the worst of the four facilities firsthand. The tour was conducted by Maria Rice, schools superintendent; Stephen Callahan, director of school facilities and operations; Richard Linden, assistant superintendent for business; Mike Robinson, food service director; Dominick Profaci, member of the Board of Education and the Facilities Committee; John Bartells, assistant director of facilities; and Rich Wiesenthal, middle school principal, accompanied by Holly Brooker (community relations coordinator for Ulster BOCES).

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As a similar tour of the Highland schools recently revealed — that district will put up a $17.5 million capital improvement project before voters on the same date that New Paltz holds its vote — viewing the condition of the facilities in person is far more illuminating than just reading the lengthy list of all the work that needs to be done. And like the Highland school district, the New Paltz BOE said that they’re only doing the highest priority work. “We divided this project into things we ‘must have’, ‘should have’ or ‘would like to have’,” said Profaci. “We’re only doing things that are ‘must haves’.”

The $52.9 million project was approved to come up for a vote after other options were considered, including a $24.3 million proposal to just tackle the infrastructure problems and several options that would have involved consolidation of facilities, closing one or more of the district’s four schools. The consolidations would have amounted to a greater increase in the tax levy, said Profaci — as much as six percent more, rather than the one percent in the approved proposal — and in the end, the $52.9 million project was deemed to be the least costly to taxpayers.

State aid will pay for approximately 50 percent of the project. (Some of the work is eligible for 60 percent reimbursement and some of it for 40 percent, so to be on the conservative side, the amount of expected state aid has been rounded off to an expected 50 percent.) Should the vote not pass, and the work ends up getting done on an emergency basis, it will not be eligible for any state aid and taxpayers will end up paying 100 percent of the burden. Repayment of the balance will take 20 years, with the average homeowner in the district paying $20 per $100,000 of assessed value annually for the term of the loan. To help offset its cost, the project is being timed to coincide with the retirement of old debt in order to keep the budget stable.