School board considering details of $35.7 million capital project
To move ahead with the first phase of a $35.7 million plan to upgrade and expand the Haldane campus, district residents would have to approve a tax increase of 10.5 percent, according to a study shared with the school board at its meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 5).
That amounts to about $1,100 in new taxes for a Philipstown home valued at $600,000, according to an analysis done by Capital Markets Associates, a consulting firm hired by the district.
If the board decides to go ahead with the project, a referendum on whether to borrow the money to finance it would likely be included on the ballot in May with the annual budget and trustee vote.
Phase I of the master plan includes a range of projects, including a new wing at the high school that would include a student center, science and tech lab, and classroom. Combined with an addition for an existing science lab in the building, it would amount to an increase of 18,946 square feet.
The plan also has extensive infrastructure projects, including changes to vehicular traffic circulation, upgraded fire alarms, improved Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, improved air conditioning and replacement of the school clocks.
The next step is public comment, said Peggy Clements, who chairs the board. “For good reasons, people will have questions, and the board and district leaders want to answer them,” Clements said.
“The board wants to make sure the community understands that the work we’re considering for Phase 1 consists of projects that the district and members of the community have collectively identified as the most important,” she said. “Many of these address needs that we’ve discussed for years.”
The board is expected to reach a decision on how to move forward by the end of October, said Superintendent Philip Benante. He said that he and the board soon will be meeting with parents and other residents to discuss the project and consider whether to modify it to reduce its cost.
Benante said that a tax increase would likely be phased in over three years. He added that the district is eligible to receive $9.3 million in state aid for the project.
The district’s three-phase master plan includes $108 million in capital improvements over 15 years and is designed to bring its facilities in line with districts that are comparable in quality and size.
According to CSArch, the Newburgh architecture firm that drafted the plan, Haldane’s facilities are “undersized,” with only 148 square feet per student, compared with 205 square feet in similar area schools.
The second and third phases of the master plan would add 29,000 square feet of indoor space and include a gymnasium and 350-seat auditorium at the high school and a new fitness and wellness center in the building that houses the elementary and middle schools. After completion of the entire plan, the district would have 208 square feet per student, according to CSArch.
Benante said that additional phases of the master plan could be timed for implementation as the first phase is being completed, minimizing further tax increases.