Last Thursday a snowfall forced the closure of the Marlboro schools and the evening’s school board meeting was canceled. Superintendent Michael Brooks brought the Southern Ulster Times up to date on recent school district activities.
Brooks expects that representatives of the proposed Bayside residential project will give a presentation on a revised PILOT agreement for the board’s consideration at their February 3rd meeting. The developer is proposing 104 units on a 25 acre parcel that borders the Marlboro Middle School to the north.
The property’s original owner/ developer Asher Sussman, is seeking to sell the property to the R. L. Baxter Corporation of Poughkeepsie, however, it appears the sale is contingent upon the company receiving a Payment in Lieu of Taxes [PILOT] agreement with the Ulster County’s Industrial Development Agency [IDA]. Last year Baxter applied for an 18 year agreement with the IDA but a revised agreement is expected at the next board meeting.
State Senator. James Skoufis sent a letter, dated Aug. 23, 2021, to Rose Woodworth, CEO of the IDA, in opposition of any agreement with the Baxter Corporation. He pointed out that nearly 100% of residential development projects in the county are able to survive without property tax abatements. In addition, Skoufis pointed out that the Baxter group failed to mention that the subdivision would likely have a number of children who will be attending the Marlboro Schools; “significantly increasing local costs district-wide. This as well as the costs associated with municipal services are conveniently omitted from the IDA application.” He closed by saying that the Baxter company should pay their taxes like every other residential project in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
“If not, I encourage you to show them the door and leave them to take this scam to another county,” Skoufis wrote.
Brooks said, “The board is prepared to listen to a proposal but until we see that in a public forum we’re not prepared to act on it until they [school board] are able to consider the proposal and talk about it and decide how they want to go about deciding.”
Brooks added that the local taxing municipalities should, “weigh in and provide some level of approval or disapproval. When they [Baxter] originally presented it, it was a cold reception because of the pretty big tax ask. The board indicated that their initial request was not something that would be met with favor. As we understand it, they’ve sharpened their pencils and provided us with some new documentation and I put that up on the website on Board Docs [on Jan. 20th agenda]. We asked for an actual presentation of it so there’s some ability for the school board to ask questions because a piece of paper doesn’t speak. It was clear listening to the board that night that they [Baxter] needed to do better if they were serious about getting the board’s consideration.”
Schools To Stay Open
Brooks said schools will remain open, “and that is wording supported from the President, down to the Governor all the way through local politicians and decision makers. We have no reason to be closing at all and we’ve actually passed the biggest part of a wave, if you want to call it that, and we’ve obviously done well. We’ve stayed open and our staffing has been OK and our student attendance keeps on going up. The first week we got back from winter break was probably the most challenging, staffing and student-wise, but it didn’t rise to the level that we needed to close our schools.” He estimated that Marlboro had from 85% to 95% of their students and staff present, with masks required inside the buildings. He added that presently a program is in place that if one is vaccinated and has no symptoms, being in quarantine is not required. However, if one is not vaccinated, the rules require a quarantine period of five days if exposed. He said the school also has implemented a state program called ‘Test To Stay’ that provides home tests that a student uses twice over a five day period. If negative the student can come to school.
Ultimately, Brooks said, “Each day we’re getting better and better as the omicron wave relaxes a bit.”