Haldane Voters to Decide on PLAY Haldane Project

Residents to vote on $2 million project on Nov. 13

By Michael Turton

Residents within the Haldane Central School District go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to say either “yes” or “no” to a $2 million proposal for major improvements to the main sports field on Haldane’s campus.

The proposed project includes installation of artificial turf, to accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse, as well as physical education programs. In addition, it would create a three-lane track  around the playing field for track team practice and as a community walking and jogging path; replace lockers dating  to the 1960s; and make improvements to the school auditorium.

Although the indoor improvements represent only a small portion of the overall cost, they are required for the district to qualify for a state grant.

From the outset, School Board trustees have pledged that if approved by voters, the project will not increase taxes. In order to achieve that “tax neutral” status, the project would be funded by a grant from the New York Department of Education covering 34 percent of the costs; $600,000 from existing capital reserves; $300,000 from the district’s endowment fund; $100,000 from PLAY Haldane, a community-based fundraising drive; and the sale of the 10-acre James Pond property valued at between $425,000 and $500,000.

A “yes” vote would authorize use of those proposed funding mechanisms including the sale of the land. It is an all-or-nothing proposition. If defeated, trustees would have to reconsider all of the proposed improvements.

The proposed project has been aired publicly at Haldane School Board meetings and on the district’s website for several months, and only in recent weeks has any opposition been expressed, or at least questions raised. The use of artificial turf rather than grass has been questioned for safety and environmental reasons, as has the cost.

Artificial turf vs. grass

The proposal calls for the installation of artificial turf, not grass, as the major component of an upgraded field. The recommendation for artificial turf came from Ward and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in athletic field design and improvement. The firm also studied fields throughout Philipstown and made recommendations on improving and better utilizing them.

School Board President Michael Junjulas, left, and PLAY Haldane Co-Chairs Jon Champlin and Dan Hughes address concerns raised about artificial turf fields at the Oct. 18 PTA meeting. (File photo)

At an Oct. 18 meeting of the Haldane PTA, Bonny Carmicino, representing the Safe Fields group, voiced concern about artificial turf, based on environmental and safety issues. She cited factors such as chemical off-gassing, water contamination from runoff, an increase in pathogens, injuries, heat, allergens and carbon footprint.

Recycling, usually considered  a vital environmental initiative, is at the heart of some of Carmicino’s concerns. Recycled tires are commonly used in artificial turf. “It is ironic. However, it is important to consider whether the product being recycled is appropriate for the intended new use,” Carmicino said in an email to The Paper. “In this case, we are considering bringing 200 tons of old tires into our community for our kids to play on.”

She said that while a 2009 New York study concluded that volatile organic compounds were not a problem in artificial turf, a 2010 Connecticut study identified four VOCs in crumb rubber samples from newer fields.

The New York State Department of Education has stated that artificial turf fields pose no public health hazard, a position supported by Ward and Associates.

While Carmicino applauds PLAY Haldane and the School Board for addressing some of Safe Field’s concerns, she is not completely satisfied.

“Studies do have mixed results. However, it is important to investigate who was funding the research. Some of the reports showing more injuries on grass were funded by artificial turf interests,” Carmicino said. “An NFL panel … looked at a six-year period, comparing games played on grass to games played on the most common brand of artificial turf, and found ACL injuries were 88 percent higher on artificial turf and ankle sprains were 32 percent higher on artificial turf.”

At a recent board meeting, Haldane School Board President Michael Junjulas read at length from a study conducted at more than 300 U.S. colleges that indicated that artificial turf fields result in fewer injuries than grass fields in a long list of injury categories. Dr. Jeff Kauffman, an orthopedic surgeon, has treated professional athletes and volunteers at Haldane on the sidelines during football games to help deal with injuries.

Contacted by The Paper, he commented on artificial turf versus natural grass. “Studies in the ’90s showed that there were significantly higher injury rates, including ACL tears, turf toe and concussions, with artificial turf,” he said. “However, since that time, the turf has significantly improved and now more closely resembles real grass and dirt. As a result, many people think that the injury rates are now very close.”

Kauffman said that artificial turf is still a bit “stickier,” meaning it can catch cleats and cause knee and ankle injuries, but that if a real grass field is not extremely well maintained, it will have “irregularities” such as holes and mounds that can also lead to injuries.

“Professional teams probably do have few injuries on grass because they can spend huge sums of money on their fields,” he said. “Most high schools however, cannot afford to keep their grass fields in perfect condition, so the injury rates between grass and artificial turf are probably very similar.” Regarding “turf burns,” abrasions associated with artificial turf, Kauffman said: “This is only seen with artificial turf, but again the newer types of turf don’t tend to be as ‘sticky,’ so these burns aren’t seen as commonly.”

“The Safe Fields group wants to work together to do what is best for our kids and our community. Everyone is trying to do the right thing here. It’s a judgment call, and the community needs to make an informed decision,” Carmicino said. In her presentation to the PTA she also raised concerns over the project’s cost over time.

The PTA has not taken a stand on the project. “We sometimes do ‘black top’ votes, such as with the School Board budget, to determine if members support it, but we didn’t on this issue,” Laura Danilov, PTA president, said. “It wasn’t brought up to us until late in the game … and there just wasn’t time.”

Cost factors

Carlos Salcedo, a member of the Citizens of Philipstown (COP), emailed The Paper, outlining COP’s concerns over the project cost. “The real question (is) whether this is or is not a tax-revenue-neutral project, both in the short and long terms,” Salcedo said. “How will Haldane address any shortfall?”

If the proposal is approved by voters, the only funding not yet fully in place is the $100,000 to be raised by PLAY Haldane and the revenue from the sale of the James Pond lands. Jon Champlin, co-chair of PLAY Haldane and a trustee on the Haldane School Board, said at the board’s Nov. 6 meeting that $52,000 has been raised in cash and pledges to date.

Revenues from the sale of the James Pond lands will depend on the real estate market at the time of sale. Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti has stated that the sale can be delayed until the market improves and that the board will not rush into it. Even if sold at the low end of estimated value, that sale would provide enough revenue to complete the necessary funding.

COP also expressed concern over the cost of turf replacement. Champlin said that estimates on the lifespan of the artificial turf vary from eight to 12 years and that the replacement cost is estimated at $300,000 to $400,000. “How is Haldane going to put aside $40,000 per year for the replacement of the field in 10 years?” Salcedo asked.

Champlin said that plans call for setting aside concession revenues at Haldane games and events held at the field and that funds normally budgeted for field maintenance but not required with artificial turf will also be earmarked for replacement needs. Plus, he indicated, special fundraising events will be held from time to time.

The COP email also asked if Haldane’s school administration and the Board of Education “is prepared to vote for zero pay increases and require more administration, teacher and other staff employee participation to address any shortfall?” Wages paid to members of Haldane’s two unions, however, are determined through collective bargaining and are not voted upon by School Board trustees.


Some may question spending $2 million when School Board trustees and administration are in the early stages of preparing the district’s 2012-13 budget, one that will likely include cuts in spending due to a continued reduction in state aid of about $500,000 a year.

In addition, the fields project vote will take place as a separate, one-issue referendum a week after the presidential election — a factor likely to result in a lower turnout than if held as part of that larger election. But Villanti and Junjulas remain solidly behind their decisions on the project and its timing.

Junjulas said that “the Board of Education and administration knew” of the implications of spending funds on the project during a tough budget cycle. “That is why we are using capital project reserves to pay for it. The money in these reserves is used for capital projects — not offsetting the tax rate.”

“There has never been a good time to replace a roof (or) replace our boilers,” Villanti said. “Capital repairs seem to always be pushed off and off. But the main reason why we are moving ahead is that the capital reserve and endowment funds are targeted for capital projects; that is their purpose.”

In addition, he said that a poor economy actually favors school districts when they put out bids on projects because often more bids come in and contractors bid lower than usual to get the job. “We know from our roof project that this is a better time to bid projects. And the goals of the project are extremely important. Our physical education requires that we add some usable outdoor space. Our lockers are falling apart. And our auditorium needs to be enhanced,” he said.

Neither thinks that holding the referendum simultaneously with the national election was desirable. “We felt this would be way too cumbersome. Voting for our project is at the school; people vote on other elections in a local church, firehouse, etc.,” Junjulas said.

“We had a choice to schedule the vote before or after the election. The fairer choice seemed to be after,” Villanti said. “The reason the fall was chosen for the vote was to allow for possible field construction for the (next) fall season.”

14 thoughts on “Haldane Voters to Decide on PLAY Haldane Project

  1. In reference to some of the concerns raised in this article: PLAY Haldane is looking into alternative infill materials for the turf, including Geo Turf- made of recycled cork and coconut husks and is awaiting pricing info.

    There have also been concerns about the hiking trails by James Pond, and none of the marked trails (such as the Nelsonville Trail) would be effected by the proposed land sale.

    As an involved member of the Haldane community, a mother of two and an ecologically minded-person I am proud to be supporting this project. It offers so many benefits for every student at Haldane (outdoor P.E. classes, safe and hygienic locker rooms, virtual field trips and other new uses in the auditorium, just to name a few). Another opportunity to get so much for our students without taxing our residents will not come along again in a great while, if ever.

    Please go to playhaldane.com for further information and Vote YES on Tuesday!

  2. Thank you for your article. I appreciate the link to Mrs. Carmicino’s Safe Fields blog. I would ask you to consider adding a link to playhaldane.com so your readership may have the opportunity to review complete supporting content referenced in your article. Please remember to vote 11/13.

  3. This is the full response from COP


    The Citizens of Philipstown.org is an advocate for information and participation by the community in its affairs. We believe each citizen should make an effort to become familiar with the documentation and the facts about the upcoming November 13 vote on the $2 million Haldane project package, and not to rely on any single person or group’s view.

    There are a number of complexities in this project, the most obvious ones are the safety of the synthetic turfs, and the real question as to whether this is or it is not a tax revenue neutral project, both in the short and long terms. In addition, the timing of the implementation of the proposed project is also an important factor for consideration.

    One area that we find concern is that this is being pitched as an all or nothing vote. We do not see how this is going to be a tax neutral event. If you bond a part of it, there is the long term debt. That is not tax neutral. If you fail to raise the $100,000 that is another short fall. If you do not get the right price for the James Pond property, who and how will make up the difference? Has the school considered what will happen when the Fishkill Trailer park is developed and there is a massive in flux of students? Where will and how will Haldane expand? Are the Garrison residents aware that the Fishkill trailer park students will take precedent over any Garrison student, because they will be in more in the district than a Garrison student?

    There are far too many loose ends and far too many areas that have not been properly addressed.

    We feel that this vote is coming at us fast and furious. We do not believe that there has been enough time to digest all of the material that has been disseminated.

    1. How will Haldane address any short fall. It plans on 34% funding coming from the state. A $2,000,000 price tag is a very large number when we are all subject to a 2% property cap. The $2,000,000 has the potential for being a 9.1% school tax increase. How clear is that being made to the public?

    2. How is Haldane going to put aside $40,000 per year for the replacement of the field in 10 years? Or will it just bond that replacement in 10 years? The $400,000 estimated in the Horizon’s issue mailed out to voters will be $538,000 in ten years at 3% inflation. Haldane will have to put away in excess of $40,000 per year to meet that need. Where is that $40,000 going to come from? When the true cost indexed for inflation is $538,000. No matter how this part is presented, having to create another line item is important and demonstrates prudence. It does not however demonstrate where the $40K to $54K is going to come from.

    3. Is the School administration along with BOE prepared to vote for zero pay increases and require more administration, teacher and other staff employee participation to address any short fall? How committed is the administration, staff and BOE in backing this? Will it be pealing any of the shortfalls in the future from salary arbitration? How will it be able to counter the Taylor Law with its 3% mandatory pay increase?

    4. Why are the 2 temporary trailers still on school property? It has been over 10 years. The temporary trailers serve as a reminder when we were all told that it was a short term fix. The trailers are a monument to broken promises and exemplify how things that go un- checked can continue to drain the school system.

    Our message is that this is a fine project that is long over due and the children deserve to have this. But are we being prudent when we ask will everyone pay their share? Having a right to vote does not mean that you have the same obligation when it comes time to pay the taxes.
    A more prudent and better time to vet this out properly would have been appreciated. Haldane is asking for us to commit to increase the spending by 9.1%. All we ask is what is the RUSH?

  4. This is an important discussion for our community to be having and it’s too bad it did not happen earlier, but perhaps better late than never. At the heart of the issue is the amount of usage expected from this one little field. The landscape architect’s report concludes that there are in fact enough fields to service the community’s needs throughout Philipstown.

    Existing fields can be improved and maintained using organic methods and for less cost than artificial turf, providing the community is willing. (Cornell Turf Management and Cornell Cooperative Extension have expressed willingness to work with our community.) Whether our community decides yes or no on the sale of the land, it’s my hope we remember that our natural environment is an increasingly rare and precious resource, and the school board and concerned parents continue to work together to come up with a solution we all can feel confident about.

    If you are inclined to understand both sides regarding artificial turf-here are some links.

    The artificial turf industry has a lobbying arm with “answers” to all the criticisms. They even provide a ready-made PPT to help “sell” communities and parents on the concept of artificial turf. Please don’t miss the PowerPoint, many of these “talking points” have been echoed in Cold Spring.


    http://www.synturf.org – A treasure trove of information about this. Click through index categories at the top. See lawsuits (both the makers of the fields, the installers and on occasion the school districts pushing AT fields have been sued) and will be again.



    Good pieces on the issue from the perspective of NYC (heavily used and debated in NYC parks).

  5. The COP’s claim that the field/auditorium/locker room project will necessitate a 9 percent tax increase and will affect the tax cap is not credible, and the red herrings of teacher salaries, the proposed Highland Valley development and the district’s use of temporary buildings are outside of the scope of this discussion, inserted, possibly, to incite a negative emotional response from voters.

    Had members of the COP attended school board meetings over the past two years during which the project and its funding were discussed at length, they would have been fully informed and would not have felt rushed into making a decision. Illustrating their ignorance in general of school budgeting, these arguments are obstructionist and serve no productive purpose.

    As Board President Mike Junjulas has repeatedly said, it is long overdue, it is budget neutral, and it will benefit the entire community. I plan to vote yes on the referendum. I hope those in the Haldane community who like to encourage progress will do the same.

  6. The additional questions I have about the project, and I’m sorry if I missed answers to these, are:

    1. What else could be done with this funding opportunity? Are we trading improvement in academics for a better field?

    2. Money has probably never been cheaper in our lifetimes (mine, at least). Why shouldn’t the district borrow the money so it doesn’t have to sell any assets?

    3. This will trade 10 acres of natural woodlands next to a protected park for a small patch of astroturf. Those acres will never come back, should they be developed. What’s the likelihood that OSI or another organization could buy the property? Is this being pursued or will it be left up to the real estate agents?

    4. It seems to me that this upgrade will make Haldane more desirable. How will increases in student population affect future building needs and budgets? Are there estimates of more students coming from Garrison or more families moving into the district? How will will the district fit them in if they come?

    Thanks for any answers anyone can provide.

    I think that the use of temporary buildings is very much in the scope of this discussion because they illustrate how good intentions can be overcome by bad planning or by circumstances out of our control. I’m not familiar with the process that lead to installing the buildings, but the fact that everyone calls them temporary means that something went wrong in the 10 years they’ve been in use. I’m hoping that, if this passes, in 10 years we won’t be facing questions like Why didn’t we make sure we could afford this? and Why didn’t we ensure that this was the best use of our limited budget and irreplaceable assets?

    • Aaron, you’re so correct about trading 10 acres of woods that the community already uses for a flat area of plastic. It will be open to the community but when can they use it at nights and weekends? I would rather walk the trails.

  7. My big and only question, How can we be sure taxes will not go up? There too many hopes and dreams of money coming to pay for this. How about we do this the old-fashioned way and raise money first, then buy it. What example are we showing the children? The project is great and I for one would love to see it happen. But we must be realistic about money. Every Christmas my kids came to me with a list. They wanted all kinds of stuff that was way overpriced for our budget. In the end they got what we could afford. Why can’t this principle be applied here? It comes down to simple economics.

  8. Can anyone explain the how, what and where the $150,000 grant money provided by Senator Greg Ball for the fields was spent?

  9. In a nutshell the Senator Ball grant money went for the lower Haldane fields (9D Fields). The lower field had major work done on it.

  10. Mr. Junjulas, thank you for responding. Will the proposed fields have lights for evening games? Can you use the same equipment that you use on grass on the proposed astro turf? Will you now be purchasing a golf carts for work and for games because you cannot drive the ambulance down the hill? Has any of this been factored in?

  11. Julia Famularo asked over on the Better Butterfield Facebook page if I would just email the BOE and post the answers here as well, so here they are.

    Here are the answers I received, from Michael Junjulas. Michael, thanks for your time and effort.

    1. The $600,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund and $300,000 from the Endowment Reserve Fund are only used for Capital improvements, we cannot use the money for academics if that is what you are asking. The Capital reserve Fund is set up to cover capital projects, since this is a Capital Project we are asking the public to allow us to use $900,000 of Capital Reserves towards this project. We are not trading academics for a better field. Also this is not just a field project, it includes renovating the boys/girls locker rooms and auditorium upgrades.

    2. Borrowing money yes is at a lower rate. But if we don’t sell the Jame’s Pond property and strictly borrow (say $425,000 for sake of argument) then we are going to have to raise taxes to fund this project as we are borrowing $425,000. The BOE has stated is not something any of us want to do. Technically we are looking at financing the land and state aid portions of the project as a Hybrid Scenario. This allows us more time to get the best price for the land sale. You can request this spreadsheet from the District on Tuesday if you like, it shows it all from 2014 to 2030.

    3. OSI and other organizations know about this land and our potential sale of it. To date none of them came forward to buy it and preserve it. Matter of fact one of the organizations (can’t remember the name, sorry) was at our September 11 meeting and Dr. Villanti jokingly asked them if they wanted to buy the land. From what I recall they said not at this time but supported what we were doing as we were keeping access to James Pond, the outdoor classroom. If the referendum passes, yes they can come back to us for a purchase along with any real estate agents.

    4. Anything we do at Haldane makes us more appealing to out of district Students. But as a Board we know we can only take in so many students from outside sources before we reach a tipping point. This question is asked every single year by myself during budget season talks as to make sure we are not at a tipping point, to which the answer is no we are not. If we have to cutoff enrollment at a certain number than that is what we have to do, not just with this project. Out of district students are enrolled as tuition base, not tax base so we do not have to take them if we are so called “booked.” You can get with the school on Tuesday to get out of district enrollment numbers from the past few years.

    –end quote–

  12. I appreciate the questions that have been raised, and after my own research (including contacting several school districts in the region) wholeheartedly support the PLAY Haldane project. I ask you all to please vote yes on Tuesday, November 13th. The project will benefit all students and the community – from auditorium improvements to virtual classroom activities and a field that can be used year round.

    For those of you that have attended the field study meetings that have been going on for the past two years, we have heard from administrators and teachers who describe terrible field conditions that at times do not allow the children to go outside for days. Field improvements and internal renovations at Haldane have been discussed for decades, and these current proposed improvements will lead to a better overall educational experience for our children.

    I have read arguments from the artificial turf industry and similarly from the natural turf industry, as in most cases you need to read both sides of the story to make an informed decision.

    Please consider that Haldane has one primary field that must service Physical Education and J.V. and Varsity sports. A new turf field (with a walking track) would better weather the constant usage by Haldane’s several sports teams and educational programs, and could also be available for special community events such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

    For further information, please refer to playhaldane.com and the Haldane website that discusses the Philipstown Field Study.

  13. I am for the Auditorium Upgrades

    I am for the Auditorium Boys and Girls Locker Room Upgrades

    I am for repairing the existing fields.

    I am for new bleachers, box, and cover.

    I AM NOT for Astro Turf.

    The money is there in the endowment and capital fund, spend it wisely… You cannot have any more!

    There appears to be a VOTE push based on emotions. We all want a nice field; we all want an upgrade to the Auditorium and the Locker Rooms… do the Auditorium and Locker Room upgrades, the money is there and you do not need a referendum for them.

    If the fields were better cared for we would have natural fields, not the proposed toxic and caustic surface to play. The jury is not out on this. Astro Turf is not a better alternative. Does Haldane spend $40K a year to maintain the fields? Looking at the condition, a guess would be NO! Cutting the grass is but a small part of maintenance.

    Now that this is to be a centralized field for Football, Soccer and Lacrosse etc. will that compromise the projected life span of the Astro Turf? Where will these teams practice, St. Basil or Mayors Park? There is an enormous difference between practicing on grass and playing on turf. It is unrealistic to think that this will somehow benefit the students. The game is completely different.

    How is Haldane going to schedule practice times to get all soccer and football teams so that everyone gets to practice and play on the Astro Turf? Whether this passes or it fails, this has been a bitter vote. What has been more distasteful is that many who think like I do are not able to post and will not, because this community for fear that they are viewed as lepers. Where is Dave when you need him?