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Voters to have final say on $40.8M capital project

Liana Lekocevic/For Columbia-Greene Media Catskill voters will head to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $40.8 million capital project for the school district.
February 9, 2019 05:48 pm Updated: February 10, 2019 12:20 am

CATSKILL — Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to have the final say on a $40.8 million capital renovation project in the Catskill Central School District.

The total cost of the project is $40,795,000, but 70 percent of the project’s cost will be covered through New York State Building Aid, according to a statement on the district’s website. State funding would reimburse the district 69.5 cents for every eligible dollar spent, according to the statement.

The rest of the cost would be covered by the district.

“Funding for the project would come from $4 million the district has set aside in a Capital Reserve Fund and from issuing bonds that the district would repay over a 15-year period,” according to the statement.

For an average homeowner, the estimated increase in property taxes would come to roughly $8.41 each month, which would cover project costs not covered by state aid and the reserve fund.

The capital project would include renovations and upgrades at the three schools in the district — the elementary, middle and high school.

In a newsletter to the community outlining the capital improvement project, District Superintendent Dr. Ronel Cook said the project is needed in part because of aging infrastructure.

“The project is driven largely by the age of the buildings, basic infrastructure that has exceeded its useful life, safety provisions, instructional space improvements and innovative indoor/outdoor learning spaces,” Cook wrote in the newsletter. “Many items in need of repair are ones you don’t necessarily see at first glance, but are needed in order to keep our infrastructure and buildings healthy.”

“We’d like to preserve and maintain the integrity of our buildings for the next generation of students,” Cook continued.

If the project is approved by voters Tuesday, it would include repairs to infrastructure like sidewalks and roofs, improved lighting, upgrades to boiler and water-heating systems, and renovations to athletics fields, including field lighting, a new track at the middle and high schools, and synthetic turf.

Improvements would also be made to the vestibules at each of the three schools, parking lots, the middle school gymnasium, the nurse’s office at the middle/high school, and more.

The capital improvement project was proposed following a Building Condition Survey that is required by the state every five years, and then a task force began meeting to come up with a vision for the district’s future.

The project was proposed to the board of education in November 2018, and the referendum was approved in December. Several informational meetings have since been held to bring the community up to date on the proposal.

On Jan. 3, Cook penned a letter to the school community explaining the project.

“The proposed improvements will enable us to better prepare our students for college and career readiness,” according to Cook’s letter. “One improvement includes additional spaces designed for collaborative project-based learning. If approved by voters, the project would bring much needed improvements to the District’s academic programs, classrooms, buildings, security controls, roadways, parking lots and athletic fields.”

The vote will be held Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 1-9 p.m., at the Catskill Middle School gymnasium, 345 West Main St., Catskill. To be eligible to vote, you must be a United States citizen age 18 or older, a resident of the Catskill Central School District for the past 30 days or more, and registered to vote either with the Greene County Board of Elections of the Catskill Central School District.

I am in favor of education. But, QUESTION!!! Why do I get to decide on increasing my taxes to pay a $100 - $300 increase (depending on my home's assessment) by a vote, but was DENIED the opportunity to vote on whether or not to subsidized a first call 30 year bond to build a new jail that all the experts I respect tell me is NOT NEEDED because the detainee population is already being served by being 'border out' to appropriate adjacent facilities??? The Jail Bond is going to cost us all $90M but we were all DENIED a direct voice in that decision. Instead the Greene County Legislature took that role unto itself.