Capital project would mean tax increase

The Beacon City School District has proposed a $49 million capital project, its largest in years, for district residents to consider when they vote on the 2024-25 budget and elect three school board members in May.

The proposal would fund sweeping improvements at all six of the district’s school buildings, with the work to be completed in the summers of 2026, 2027 and 2028. If approved, it would also be the first school capital project to trigger a property tax increase in at least 15 years.

Before being added to the May 21 ballot, the school board must approve the plan, which is expected to happen at its March 18 meeting.

The district estimates that a home valued at $300,000 would see a $127 annual tax increase. With the state STAR exemption, which affords homeowners savings on school taxes, the increase would be $114, and it would be $91 for seniors enrolled in the Enhanced STAR program. The tax impact could decrease over time if new construction, which would spread the district’s tax levy, continues in Beacon. 

Superintendent Matt Landahl told the school board on Monday (Feb. 26) that building condition surveys, which New York State requires every five years, led the district to consider a range of upgrades. “We’re struggling to keep up with the needs of our older buildings, including the high school, which is our newest building” from 2002, he said. Regarding the tax increases, “we don’t take this lightly at all. We’re racing to keep up with our aging buildings,” Landahl said. 

“It doesn’t make sense to make any of these investments a la carte anymore,” said Kristan Flynn, who chairs the board’s Facilities & Operations Committee. “If we’re going to fix them and make them most effective, we have to fix everything around them.”

If voters approve the funding, the district would make heating and ventilation upgrades at the six schools, replace selected roofs depending on need, address Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, create secure visitor entrances and make energy-efficiency upgrades, among many other projects and repairs. Many classrooms will receive new flooring, ceilings, lighting, windows and doors, while the stage and theater at Beacon High School will be upgraded and new playground equipment installed at Sargent and Glenham elementaries.

The tennis courts and baseball and softball fields at the high school will be improved and the cafeterias and gymnasiums at the four elementary schools and Rombout Middle School will be air-conditioned, creating “cooling centers” for students to rotate through on hot days. 

Landahl said he plans to meet with parent-teacher organizations at each school in March and April, and will hold virtual and in-person community meetings in April to discuss the projects. 

The school board on Monday approved an emergency resolution for one repair that can’t wait. The gymnasium ceiling at South Avenue Elementary, the district’s oldest building, is in danger of collapsing after back-to-back heavy snowfalls and rain in January, Landahl said. The repair, which could cost up to $300,000, will be paid for through a combination of insurance coverage and a capital fund approved by voters in 2021. 

Physical education classes have been held outside or in a sectioned-off area of the cafeteria while the gym has been inaccessible. Because it’s an emergency, the state is expected to fast-track the design approval, and the goal is to have students back in the gym this school year, the superintendent said. 

Meanwhile, the bulk of the work on the $26 million capital project from 2021 will conclude this summer. At Beacon High School, highlights of the projects that remain include upgrades to two science classes and the television and media studio. The athletic track will also be refurbished. Two science labs and two art classrooms will be renovated at Rombout, among other projects. 

At the elementary schools, a new library will be constructed at Sargent near the entrance of the building; JV Forrestal will get new playground equipment; South Avenue will have its front loop and sidewalk reconstructed and upgrades made to the playground; and Glenham will get additional parking and new drop-off loops. Some work will also be completed in the summer of 2025 at Glenham. 

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

Leave a comment

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. All online comments are moderated, must include your full name and may appear in print. See our guidelines here.