Three districts vote ‘no’ putting repairs in limbo
By Michael Turton
A proposed BOCES capital improvements project has been defeated for a second time. Few publicly elected bodies require unanimity to approve projects, however BOCES is one such organization. The 18 school districts that fund Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES must vote unanimously in favor of a project before it can move forward.
On Oct. 9 (Tuesday) trustees from the 18 districts voted at their respective school boards on whether or not to proceed with a $16,944,701 project to repair leaking roofs; replace heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) units; redesign a pool used for physical therapy; and replace fire-alarm and PA systems on the BOCES campus in Yorktown Heights.
Fifteen school districts supported the project while three voted against. Haldane, Garrison and Putnam Valley voted “yes” as did Yorktown, Somers, Peekskill, Ossining, North Salem, Lakeland, Katonah, Hendrick Hudson, Croton-Harmon, Carmel, Briarcliff and Bedford. Voting against were Brewster, Mahopac and Chappaqua.
Districts fund BOCES proportionately. Haldane’s share of the proposed capital project was assessed at 1.62 percent or $250,198 of the total cost, spread over three years. Garrison was assessed at 1.08 percent or $166,910. Bedford, which also supported the project, had the highest assessment of 11 percent or $1.7 million.
Among the three dissenting school districts, Chappaqua was assessed at 8.3 percent or $1.282 million, Mahopac 7.41 percent or $1.144 million, and Brewster 5.6 percent or $865,297.
The cost of the BOCES project presents an additional challenge to school board trustees beyond the actual cost itself in that the expenditures must be counted as part of each district’s budget as they struggle to stay within the 2 percent tax cap imposed by the state of New York.
Earlier this year a proposed BOCES project totaling $19,050,000 was also rejected. The BOCES Board of Directors will meet later this month to discuss options. Superintendent James Langlois said that one strategy may be to call a meeting of all 18 school board presidents and district superintendents to brainstorm solutions.
“None of this — the roofs, the HVAC system and the pool — can be walked away from,” he said. “The project will move forward because we cannot afford not to.” Langlois said that the BOCES board could decide to substantially increase the annual contribution made by each district to the BOCES capital fund. “The average annual district contribution of $33,000 would have to be increased four- to six-fold. This would cause a far greater budget-to-budget increase for a district than the plan they voted on.”
Langlois said that after reviewing the options available, the three districts that voted against the proposed capital project “…could decide to change their minds and re-vote, joining their 15 colleagues in approving the project.”