Ulster BOCES last week made the Kingston City School District the first stop on a tour of local school districts, sharing plans for a $39 million capital project for improvements at its Port Ewen and New Paltz locations.
The presentation was made by BOCES Superintendent Charles Khoury during a meeting of the KCSD Board of Education held on Wednesday, October 6. Khoury detailed the complexities of a four-year project that would begin in 2024, primarily being undertaken when students aren’t in class.
The eight school districts in Ulster County would pay for the project over a five year period based upon their use of BOCES, with roughly 61 percent of the cost reimbursed through state aid. Kingston’s share would be around $11.8 million. Other local districts include Saugerties ($5 million), New Paltz ($4.2 million) and Onteora ($2.4 million).
The project would largely focus on BOCES’ Port Ewen facility, with $21 million earmarked for work at the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, and $10.7 million for the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. The remaining $7.3 million would go to the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning in New Paltz.
“This is a complicated project,” read the presentation. “We have had to estimate cost of materials and labor over six years from now. We have been conservative in our estimates.”
Planned work includes HVAC replacement, ceiling and lighting upgrades, a fire alarm system, spatial reconfiguration, masonry, bathroom repairs, and roofing.
The last major facilities project undertaken by Ulster BOCES took place 32 years ago. A countywide referendum for a $15.2 million project held on October 17, 1989 passed by a 2-1 margin, with the bulk of the money going toward the purchase of the CTE facility in Port Ewen, with upgrades to existing buildings and the erection of a two-story Special and Alternative Education wing. The remaining $2 million from that project went to expanding the New Paltz site by building a 10,540-square foot addition on the administrative building and adding a 3,000-square foot storage garage.
According to Ulster BOCES, that 1989 project adjusted for inflation would equal $33.6 million today.
Presentations are planned in the other seven districts in the county through Wednesday, December 1. BOCES administrators are asking school districts to vote on whether to approve the project between December 7-16.
Price concerns aired
There are two potential paths forward for the Ulster BOCES project, with the first requiring approval by the Boards of Education of all eight school districts in the county. Should that not transpire, BOCES could choose to go to a public referendum, where it could pass by a simple majority. In either instance, the eight component school districts would be required to fund the project as outlined.
District payments would have to be made by July 15 in each of the years between 2022 and 2026. In Kingston’s case, a first payment of $911,261 would be due in 2022; a second of $2,278,152 in 2023; a third of $2,885,659 in 2024; a fourth of $2,976,785 in 2025; and a fifth and final payment of $2,794,533 in 2026.
For Saugerties, the payment breakdown would be $382,385 in 2022; $955,963 in 2023; $1,201,886 in 2024; $1,249,124 in 2025; and $1,172,647 in 2026. In New Paltz, payments would be $323,447 in 2022; $808,618 in 2023; $1,024,249 in 2024; $1,056,594 in 2025; and $991,904 in 2026. For Onteora, the payments would be $187,206 in 2022; $468,016 in 2023; $592,820 in 2024; $611,541 in 2025; and $574,100 in 2026.
The projected timeline includes all of 2022 being spent on preparing detailed plans, with a review by the New York State Education Department between January 1-October 30, 2023 anticipated. Bids would be prepared, advertised and awarded between November 1, 2023 and April 2024, with construction set to begin in July 2024.
This of course assumes the project is either supported by eight school districts or area voters, and in Kingston at least, it was met with a mixed reaction. Herb Lamb was among a handful of trustees who spoke in favor of the proposal. “If we expect our kids to have state-of-the-art facilities here, then our kids should have state-of-the-art facilities there,” Lamb said. “I feel very strongly that we have to support this.”
Fellow trustee Nora Scherer also expressed support, especially coming so long after the last major facilities project at Ulster BOCES. “The facilities telegraph to the community what we feel about education,” Scherer said.
But trustee James Michael said he was concerned about the price tag. “I know we have to educate our kids and keep them healthy and fit,” Michael said. “But it’s very costly. Letting tax money go away from the school district to fund buildings…is not acceptable to me.”
KCSD Superintendent Paul Padalino also expressed concern that the additional debt limit imposed by the project could make it difficult to address districtwide projects in the future.