This letter appeared in the New Paltz Times leading up to the January 27th vote. The Board of Education wrote these letters to share their thought process and the data examined in developing the proposed capital project.
Valuable Feedback Helped Us Decide
November 20, 2014
We appreciate the over 100 community members who took the time to respond to our request for feedback. We read every letter and email, and we listened to every voicemail and public comment. These comments helped to inform our decision and dispel our fears. We discovered that we are not a community divided. We all want the same thing: an affordable long-term plan; safe, healthy schools; opportunities for every child; responsible infrastructure and programmatic repairs; and upgrades that will bring us up to code based on today's standards; and buildings that will meet the demands of contemporary education and serve students into the future.
We learned that, regardless of how someone voted, they were asking the same questions that we had asked before we made our decision. We heard our voices echoed back to us, asking questions that had been asked at the board table and that were the center of vigorous debate. At the time, those questions caused us to delve deeper and to gather more data and more information. Our goal was three-prong: find the most cost effective long-term solution for the facilities, place the least burden on taxpayers, and provide students with a safe and appropriate learning space.
The process took nearly two years, and our architects even commented that they had never worked with a Board that required so much analysis and data. Ultimately, it was this data and the analysis that led to the creation of the Facilities Master Plan that was used as a guide to create the project. This detailed plan examined the building needs and studied various options of consolidating campuses. It included input from architects, engineers, construction managers, community members, and district administrators.
The Board adopted the Facilities Master Plan in February of 2014, and used it to make informed decisions about how to move forward. We analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of changing the number of campuses. We looked at costs and at potential savings. We looked at the possibility of selling any properties no longer in district use.
In the end, we decided that the cost of consolidation was too expensive and did not provide a return on investment. We also felt that a less expensive band-aid approach of just fixing the basic issues was not a wise investment of taxpayer dollars, since this did not bring the buildings up to modern functionality and left too many issues unaddressed. This information is outlined on the district website at www.newpaltz.k12.ny.us/project.
As we move forward, time is of the essence. The buildings have failing systems and conditions, and delaying decisions puts the operational budget in jeopardy if emergency work becomes necessary. We are also concerned about construction cost escalation making the project more expensive if we delay the schedule. The original schedule is still achievable under this timeframe.
For all of these reasons, at the November 19th Board of Education meeting, we voted unanimously to place the Capital Project back up for public vote at the earliest, legally possible date, January 27, 2015. We also decided to extend the voting hours to allow more people to participate in the decision. The polls will be open from 6am-9pm.
We need to find better ways to communicate our extensive research and analysis, so your questions are answered. Please look for more letters to the editor as we explore other options of outreach. We are committed to improving in this area and we remain available to answer your questions and address your concerns. The Board can be reached via email at email@example.com. Please give us the opportunity to provide you with the information and answers you need.
Brian Cournoyer, President
Ruth Quinn, Vice President