When the New Paltz Board of Education began work on a long-term Facilities Master Plan
, we came to the table with many different ideas -- and not a few pre-conceived notions -- about what that should look like, and how different areas should be prioritized. We disagreed about a number of things, but in the most important, big-picture areas, we found that we weren't so far apart after all.
We all believed that every option should be fully explored from the ground up, and accepted or rejected only after gathering and vetting all of the relevant data; that the health and safety of our students and staff were the top, no-compromise priority; that we should produce a long-term solution to our infrastructure needs that would eliminate the need for "band-aid" fixes; and that it should also address modernizing our buildings for the educational needs of today and tomorrow.
In 2013, after a year of exploring the options, the Board of Education adopted a Facilities Master Plan that kept all four buildings because we discovered that relocating the middle school or consolidating the Duzine/Lenape campuses would result in a tax levy increase of 4-6%, even after factoring in potential operational cost savings. This was four to six times more costly than the long-term four-campus approach. An infrastructure-only plan was also assessed, but was ultimately rejected because it addressed neither the significant air quality and ventilation needs nor the long-term educational needs of our students.
We sought input from the community, held many public forums and presentations, and asked for your help and ideas to define the project. We also believed that the decisions we would make about our buildings, both from infrastructure and programmatic standpoints, would be best informed by the people who spent time in them day after day -- our administrators, teachers, and maintenance staff. We asked them to create prioritized lists of repairs and improvements for the board to consider, as we also created and prioritized lists of our own.
With the help of our consultants, we then collated and narrowed these lists into a single list and identified items as either "must have," "should have," or "would like to have." We then developed a capital project based on the items
the Board considered the highest priority that would addresses all infrastructure and educational needs for today and for the long-term.
This process began in 2012 and it took two years to complete. We produced a bond proposition for a combination of renovation and new construction that all seven board members agreed would address all of our infrastructure and overcrowding issues, and bring our buildings up to date with modern building standards for today and well into the future, as well as the programmatic improvements necessary for today's education standards and today's students.
The proposed improvements were based on a 20-year plan that would maximize the benefits of available state building aid (not a band-aid that we would have to revisit in a couple of years). We hoped to present a bond that would not be too expensive for our taxpayers to bear.
Over the upcoming weeks, leading up to the bond vote on January 27, 2015, the Board of Education will be reaching out to the community in a number of ways, including here in the Letters to the Editor column. Ensuring you have accurate information and answers to any of your questions is important to us.
Brian Cournoyer, President
Ruth Quinn, Vice President