The same $52.9 million capital improvement bond proposal rejected by voters last October will be put up without revision for a re-vote on Tuesday, January 27. The board’s decision has been controversial with local residents, as demonstrated by the eloquent and passionate letters to the editor of this newspaper in recent weeks. Those for the passage of the bond say it’s either “pay now or pay later,” necessary costs that will only rise the longer we wait and the project a necessary investment in not only the community we’re all a part of now but in the very future of our society: “We make the investment on the front end and reap the societal benefits on the back end — when we’re sick, when we’re old, when the kid whose classrooms we paid for today becomes our doctor tomorrow,” wrote Mark Portier. Those against passage of the bond issue say the costs are unreasonable and accuse the board of broken trust. “There are few greater acts of ill will than a BOE refusing to take you seriously by cancelling your vote… Try to imagine an America where every time the majority won a vote, the parochial view of a few powerful people could disenfranchise the entire majority by requiring a do-over. It is no way to run a democracy,” wrote Ron Schneider.
Financials of the project
State aid will pay for approximately 50 percent of the project. The taxpayer impact is estimated to be an additional $20 each year per $100,000 of assessed home value. For example, a homeowner with property assessed at $250,000 will pay an estimated additional $50 in taxes every year over the bond’s 20-year life. To help offset its cost, the project is being timed to coincide with the retirement of old debt. The bonds will be acquired as needed throughout the project to be capped at $52.9 million. According to the school district, “a conservative 3.5 percent interest rate was used to allow for potential interest rate risk” in the calculations for the total project cost. Using this 3.5 percent rate, “the total cost of the project is $72.6 million. If interest rates are lower, the final project cost will also be lower. State aid, retiring debt, funds from the capital reserve and a one-time, one percent tax levy increase would cover the project cost.”
Why the same bond
After voters rejected the $52.9 million bond proposal at the polls on October 28, the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education solicited feedback from the community in order to help them evaluate the direction to move going forward with another proposal. After several weeks of evaluating the responses they received, the board came back to the table at their meeting on November 19 and voted 7-0 to put the same $52.9 million bond proposal for capital improvements back up before voters at the earliest legally possible date. (State law requires that the district wait a minimum of 90 days before putting another capital improvement project up for a vote.)
In approving the same bond proposal without revisions, the board cited its belief that, after reviewing the community responses they received, the reason the bond had failed at the polls in October was because of a general lack of understanding in the community about the details and cost of the project. There was also concern about a last-minute anonymous letter circulated to residents that discouraged voting for the project and offered what the board said was inaccurate information.
Board members stated that they had believed they were being transparent all along about their process and intentions, but felt that the feedback showed otherwise. Noting that time was not on their side, given the deteriorating structures in need of renovations and their belief in the worth of the project they’d put together, they decided to put the same project back up without any revisions, convinced that if they conveyed critical information better this time around and the public fully understands their rationale, they will vote ‘yes’ this time.
Since then, the board has actively engaged in offering information to voters on the district website and through a series of letters to the editor of this newspaper.