After several months in discussion, the Marlboro School Board last week approved a $19,499,279 capital project, named Vision 2020, aimed at maintaining and upgrading the physical plants of the three schools in the district. The vote, however, was not unanimous, with board member John Cantone voting no and Susan Horton abstaining. The remaining members of the board approved the project – Frank Milazzo, Russell Conley, James Kuha, John Marro and Antonio Perugino.
During final deliberations Cantone said while he respected all who worked on compiling the data for this project, he favored postponing the vote for a few months to allow further review, while Horton voiced her concern that the process was moving at too fast a pace. The board stressed that the cost of this project has to be weighed against what the public can afford, while at the same time pointing out that these upgrades are very much needed.
Architect Thomas Ritzenthaler, of CS Arch, reviewed the key items covered in the project: at the Elementary School; a secured entry/main office, sound attenuation in the music room, recess play amenities, replacement of original wood soffits and minor egress enhancements.
The Middle School will receive scrutiny of its outside vehicle and pedestrian movement, the installation of a secured entry and a new main office, a student/family support services area for Guidance and a Psychologist, upgrades to the gymnasium and lockers, attention to the music rooms, dining hall serving lines, expansion of the nursing facilities, fixing toilets (building-wide), moving the innovation lab upstairs and updating the fire safety systems. The board pointed out that this is the oldest of the three facilities and is the one most in need of work.
The High School is scheduled for a new secured entryway and a main office upgrade along with student Guidance and Psychologist offices. Upgrades will also target the nursing suite and dining hall. A new athletic fitness center is to be installed and improvements made to the art program and the athletic site. In addition, enhancements will be made to the performing arts and the music program.
Two weeks ago the board asked the Administration and Ritzenthaler to review the entire project to see whether any further reductions can be made, with the understanding that they favored the $19.9 million option. Ritzenthaler returned last week with a chart showing that $5.1 million was subtracted from a project total of $24.6 million, which brought the final total to $19,499,279.
Patrick Witherow, Director of Business and Finance, explained that the total cost for everything was initially $24.6 million.
“We never brought to the board the full $24 million because administratively we didn’t think that was where we needed to go,” he said. “That [$24 million] was showing, out of everything that was identified, as what possibly could be done. The $5 million are things that we decided not to do in order to get to the $19.5 million.”
Witherow has repeatedly pointed out that this is a perfect time to do this project, because a $1.2 million annual unaided debt payment from a former tax certiorari case is soon to end.
“If that didn’t exist it would be a whole different conversation because we would be replacing like [debt] for like. We’re able to get a $1.5 million mortgage payment that’s only costing us $500,000 to finance a $20 million project,” he said. “It’s kind of like when they talk about a polar vortex, it just doesn’t seem to make sense, but the underlying factors are just such an arrangement that it all falls together.” Witherow said after the state passes its budget in early April and all of the aid money is calculated, he expects the impact of this $20 million project on a market value house of $250,000 would be, “like a dollar a month. It’s so negligible because of the [state] building aid.”
Witherow provided a chart showing the favorable calculations surrounding the $19.4 million project. The district is proposing to use $3 million from the fund balance, leaving $16.5 million in issued debt. The project is eligible to receive $11.6 million in state aid, dropping the project to an estimated $7.9 million in local cost in debt and interest. This nets out to an annual payment of $461,741 or $.37 cents per $1,000 in assessed value. He anticipates the reduced tax/budget burden will be greater than $800,000.
Superintendent Michael Brooks spoke about the process the board went through while considering this capital project.
“We’ve got good people that care about our kids, that care about our community in all facets, instructionally, fiscally to be responsible to the taxpayers, to be responsible to our children and striking that careful balance is everything,” he said. “We saw a clean process that was very public facing and now some real serious work begins to make sure the public understands what they are going to be voting on and the public will have their say in May.”
Brooks said the district will notify residents about the details of this project with printed mailings, through social media posts and emails. There will also be an array of poster boards and fliers that will grace the lobby of each school to inform the public. Presently, the district’s home page has a link [Vision 20/20 Capital Project] that provides additional information about the project.
“I’ve heard an awful lot of support; it seems clear that people are understanding the spaces that we’ve been talking about are absolutely in need of work and to make sure its within a tight budget and that’s why we were as tight as we possibly could,” he said. Brooks said the walking tours of each of the buildings was essential to give the board and the public a chance to see what is needed. He recalled standing on a riser in one of the music rooms is what cemented the need for the project upon him; “we can do better.”
Brooks said if the voters approve this project, then the detailed design work would begin, which will take into account the energy performance ideas the board is considering to realize additional savings. This design phase is expected to be completed by December of this year. The plans will then be sent to the NYS Education Department for their review and if expedited, a response could come back by as early as February 2020. The public bid process would then be scheduled between March and April 2020 with construction beginning in May 2020. The project is expected to run through October 2021, by which time the final closeout process would be completed.