On Tuesday, October 18, Highland Central School District voters will go to the polls to weigh in on two Capital Project propositions. Proposition 1 is a tax-neutral plan for updating aging school infrastructure and replacing end-of-life or failing systems. The second proposition, which will only be successful if Proposition 1 is also approved, makes improvements to the athletic field and track at Highland High School. The vote will be held in the Highland High School Band Room from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. A public forum about the project is planned for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27, at Highland High School.
“At this time, through strategic, long-term financial planning, we have the unique opportunity to complete $16.9 million of facilities improvements without increasing the local tax levy,” says Superintendent of Schools Joel E. Freer, adding that the work addresses multiple antiquated building components such as boilers, ventilation, plumbing, electrical capacity, masonry, fire alarms and more. A complete list of the proposed upgrades can be found by clicking on the Capital Project 2022 quick link at highland-k12.org.
New York State is projected to reimburse almost $0.72 of every one dollar of aidable costs in Proposition 1. In addition, almost $1.9 million has been saved in the voter-approved Capital Reserve, which was established for the purpose of funding projects such as this.
“After combining State Aid and the Capital Reserve, and aligning the project timeline with decreases in our debt payment schedule, Proposition 1 can be completed with no tax levy increase,” explains Board of Education President Alan Barone. “Creating smaller, more frequent projects that do not create spikes in the tax levy was a priority identified by the community in 2014 and 2015 when the Board of Education engaged stakeholders in discussions about how best to plan for and fund facility improvements.”
Highland voters will also be presented with a second proposition for $4.6 million worth of improvements to the High School athletic field and track, which would enhance programs for student-athletes and Physical Education classes. If Proposition 2 is approved, a taxpayer with the Basic STAR Exemption would see an estimated average tax increase of $1 a month per $100,000 full-value assessment. The cost would be less for individuals who receive the Enhanced STAR exemption, about $0.33 per $100K full-value assessment.
Major athletic program upgrades supported by Proposition 2 include replacing the existing grass field with turf; resurfacing the track (which has several cracks and is showing its age) and adding perimeter drains; adding a track timing system, steeplechase, and shot put pit; and building a concession stand area and bathroom facilities.
“Although the project improves the track and the athletic field, it is important for the community to understand that this proposition benefits student-athletes who participate in several of our sports teams and will also enhance our Physical Education program,” explains Freer.
While football, lacrosse, soccer, and track and field athletes would use the field for practices and competitions, other teams will also be able to use the facilities for conditioning and practices. For example, when the softball and baseball fields are too wet to use, teams are currently forced to cancel practice or move into the gym, which significantly limits the ability to conduct effective batting and fielding drills. These teams can use the new turf field for practice instead.
The turf field will also reduce the need for event cancellations due to weather-related field conditions. The time needed for event preparation, such as mowing and lining the field, will also be eliminated, and the field will no longer need to rest between competitions.
But the athletics improvements will not only benefit athletes. It will also provide additional opportunities for Grade 9-12 students to participate in outdoor Physical Education classes, says Freer.
Information is available on the District’s website and a community forum about the project will take place at Highland High School on Tuesday, September 27, at 6 p.m. Freer can also be reached at (845) 691-1014 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.