School tax rate increase will be minimal
By Michael Turton
It has been a summer of “discovery” for Haldane’s Director of Facilities and Transportation Michael Twardy. Unfortunately what he discovered was not good news. Significant problems at the district office building and even more serious health and structural issues with two portable classrooms, discovered as part of routine summer maintenance, were discussed at the Haldane School Board’s Tuesday (Aug. 12) meeting.
Twardy reported that an examination of a soft and sagging portion of the floor in one of the modular classrooms also turned up significant mold and moisture problems when sections of the walls were removed. After considering alternative solutions, including cleaning and repairing the portables or replacing them with new units, trustees voted to have the two buildings demolished prior to the start of the school year.
A number of factors led to that decision. Twardy said that the restoration company that inspected the modular units questioned the wisdom of repairing them, stating that even if refurbished their longevity was questionable. The portables were leased and installed in 1999 and were to be phased out after construction of the new high school. Instead, the district purchased them for use as foreign language classrooms.
Purchasing new modular classrooms would be expensive — between $200,00 and $250,000 per unit, Twardy said. “There is no such thing as a temporary classroom anymore,” he said. New York State Department of Education regulations now require foundations, running water and bathrooms for all modular units.
If there is any good news it is that the district will receive an insurance payout of $139,000 for the two units, more than was originally anticipated. Cost of demolition will be approximately $21,000. The Mabel Merritt Building will now be adapted for classroom use for the foreseeable future, making up for the space lost by demolition of the modular units.
The district office also has its problems. A beam was found to have split beneath the second floor storage area, necessitating removal of a large number of paper records and the purchase of two exterior storage units. Twardy said that inspectors commented that the administrative building also might be nearing “the end of its useable life.”
When Trustee Peter Henderson questioned that, Twardy pointed out that the office was built in 1851 and that used lumber was part of its construction. “We’re going to have to look at that closely,” Henderson said.
The building has been deemed structurally sound overall. A preliminary estimate for repairs was put at between $20,000 and $25,000. A strategy for completing those repairs has not been determined. Superintendent of Schools Diana Bowers commented that rooftop snow loads will be carefully monitored this winter.
Minimal tax rate increase
Business Manager Anne Dinio reported that the tax rate for Philipstown residents will increase by less than 0.02 percent for the 2014-15 budget year to $34.36 per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home with an assessed value of $250,000, that translates to $8,589 in school taxes.
Spending will total $22,405,488 in 2014-15 as approved by voters in May. Philipstown taxpayers will contribute $17,383,623 while Putnam Valley and Fishkill residents will pay $411,851 and $241,435, respectively.
Bowers addresses communications — and the future
Residents can expect increased and timelier communications from Haldane officials as new Superintendent Bowers puts her stamp on district operations. One way she plans to do that is through a Superintendent’s Blog now being tested. “There will definitely be a focus on communications,” in order to quickly provide and clarify information that residents need, Bowers said. Residents will also be able to post questions on the blog.
Haldane is also working on developing a smart-phone application that will make a wide range of information available — from board meeting agendas and the school calendar to cafeteria menus and sports.
In her report, Bowers pointed out that next year Haldane will begin educating the Class of 2017. “Our charge is to make them college ready,” she said. “We don’t know now what that will take.” Senior administration conducted a two-day retreat this week to begin what Bowers calls a “discovery process,” shaping a vision of what Haldane will look like in the future in order to meet that charge.
Teachers and other staff will join the year-long process on Superintendent Days in September and November in the early stages of a process that will develop five- and 10-year strategies.
Diplomats in the making
The Model United Nations is coming to Haldane. Trustees approved Principal Brent Harrington’s recommendation to initiate a Pilot Model UN Enrichment Course in the middle school during the 2014-15 school year.
As part of the UN simulation, students learn about diplomacy and international relations. They also develop skills in public speaking, research, debating, teamwork, writing and leadership. “The more we can introduce kids to the global stage and teach them conflict resolution … this is fabulous,” Haldane School Board President Curto said.
Back to school
Haldane will be closed Monday, Sept. 1, for Labor Day. Staff will take part in Superintendent Conference Days on Sept. 2 and 3. For students, the big day is Thursday, Sept. 4, when classes resume.
Former Haldane superintendent remembered
Dr. Dudley (Skip) Hare, superintendent at the Haldane Central School District from 1980 to 1988, died on Aug. 6, in Naples, Florida, after a four-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Hare also served as superintendent of Pelham schools from 1988 to 1995 before going on to become superintendent and CEO of Putnam County Westchester BOCES.
“Skip was also our search consultant when we hired Dr. Mark Villanti. He was a real gentleman,” Haldane School Board President Joe Curto told The Paper. In an email to Haldane staff, teacher Eric Richter wrote: “We will all remember Skip as a man of integrity, a visionary and a leader.”
Condolences can be sent to Mrs. Judi Hare, 3411 Runaway Court, Naples, FL 34114.