CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The Shenendehowa School District Board of Education last week was given its first look at a capital projects plan that will put $16.7 million into facility upgrades and nearly $10 million into educational upgrades.
The $26.2 million proposal will now be reviewed and discussed by the board. The tentative date for the referendum to be put to voters is May 18, the same date as the 2021-2022 budget vote.
The proposal was presented at the Nov. 10 board meeting after a recap and update on two capital project referendums approved by voters in 2016 and 2017.
The recaps, given by Assistant Superintendent of Finance Kathy Chase, showed that a $16.6 million referendum approved by voters in 2016 had allowed the district to renovate the High School East library, replace floors in the school’s north and south cafeterias, refurbish the roofs on high schools East and West and the middle school complex, install several elementary school playgrounds, install vehicle lifts in the bus garage, and give the campus new signage.
The $22.2 million capital project approved in 2017 allowed the district to undertake a major realignment of its campus roadways and parking lots, install a new roof on High School West, refurbish the High School East cafeteria kitchen, install natural gas to all school kitchens, modernize science classrooms, and undertake upgrades to the roof as well as the HVAC system at district headquarters.
The high anticipated renovation of the tech wing is still in progress as is the Smart Schools Project for new phones, and upgrades to security, generators and the public address system. Though not part of either referendum, one surprisingly large project undertaken this summer was an upgrade for the Gowana Middle School courtyard.
In presenting the latest capital project proposal, Shen Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson noted the lag time between approvals for such projects and their completion. Generally, he said, there is a three to four year span between the passage of a referendum and completion of all the projects.
“We have to think about the fiscal condition of the district three to four years out,” Robinson said.
Moving into a discussion on how the administration takes on debt, Robinson likened it to a family putting off buying a new car until the others have been paid off. Additionally, the administration works hard each year in preparing a budget to find savings for a capital reserve fund.
Those monies help fill the gap between project costs that are available for state aid and the local responsibility. Presently the state pays 67 percent of the costs of public school capital projects.
The district expects to kick in $2.5 million from the capital project fund toward the proposal’s costs.
By staying ahead of urgent capital project needs while paying off debt accrued from earlier projects the district is able to extend the debt load out while paying off earlier debt.
“We’ve been strategic about when we bring debt on,” Robinson said. “This gives the district flexibility keeping the impact of the projects’ debt load as minimal as possible on budget and tax levy.”
In the area of facility upgrades, the $26.5 million capital project proposal would allow the district to make improvements to infrastructure in areas like plumbing, electrical and heating; replacing original boilers and chillers in many buildings as well as hot water heaters, pumps and storage tanks. There would be upgrades for replacing asbestos tiles and energy efficient upgrades to windows and masonry. The district’s electric power capacity would be upgraded also, allowing students and staff easier access for all the devices now in use.
The facility upgrades would include Steuerwald Stadium’s turf and track as well as expanded turf for multipurpose fields.
Educational upgrades would include refurbishing or replacing gym floors, modernizing middle and elementary school classrooms, and upgrades to the sound and lights in High School West’s auditorium.
The Board of Education is expected to finalize the date for the referendum at the Dec. 15 meeting.