School Board President: More on Project 2021
Dear parents, neighbors, and community residents –
Over the past few months, I have really enjoyed talking to so many of you about things that are going on in our schools and across our district. It’s great to know that so many residents are taking an interest. I appreciate the honest feedback on the letters that we have been sharing and the requests for more information. Other board members and I have discussed the various information that we feel is valuable to write about and share, we thought spending a bit more time on what is going to be involved in our next building project - Project 2021 - would be helpful to you in making an informed vote on November 14. Now I know that many of you have told us that we might be a bit over the top on our communication about the project and, we appreciate, and get that. But in my and other board members’ conversations around town and at various events, especially if they don’t have children or grandchildren in the district, we are finding that not everyone is aware of the project, the vote, and why we are doing such a large project now. I've explained some of this in previous letters, but want to make a few more points on the "why" of the project and what happens if we don't move forward at this time.
First, we have been upfront from the beginning that this project will not require any more tax support for maintaining our buildings than what you are already providing. But as I said in my last letter, just as a homeowner might be able to buy a new car and keep the payment the same, my electric bill may fluctuate a bit based on the rates and my use. So while we can keep our payments at the same level they are while getting a lot of much needed work done to our buildings, there maybe other areas of the budget that require more support. And I think it’s important to remember, a lot of the work we are talking about - replacing original boilers (older than me!), windows, aging roofs, outdated electrical panels, old classroom lighting, and outdated/insecure main entries - is not something we do every few years. These are investments that will last another 20-40 or more years. By doing the work now, and while interest rates are low, we can get lower prices by buying and doing all the work in bulk - buying windows and boilers for multiple buildings just makes sense. Buying and doing things in bulk - is just responsible stewardship as Mr. Slentz likes to say, and is just plain money smart!
Second, the aid from the state - about $.63 on every dollar we spend - is not going to be given back to us if we don't do the project. We are estimating that with a total project cost of $36.5 – the amount that allows us to keep our current payments the same - that $22 million will come back from the state and go toward this project. I for one don’t want my money to pay for another district to upgrade their facilities; I want my money back home! But if the project is not approved, we would have to do a series of smaller projects that are going to come at a higher cost because we can't buy in bulk and probably no aid as it will be an considered an emergency purchase. We already know that because, we have been doing this for the last four years as we've prepared for this project. This also puts us at risk for our 50+ year old boilers and our aging roofs to have problems causing real disruption to the schools and unpredictable costs to you the taxpayer. While our experienced maintenance mechanics are maintaining our roofs and boilers, we know we are on borrowed time with given their age. It’s concerning, just like a home owner, and no one like to see roofs leak or heat to fail because it will put us in a financial bind.
Finally, we have been pretty conservative in our design of this project so as to ensure that we don't have to ask for more taxes to support it. While there is a lot of work to be done, there just aren't a lot of bells and whistles included.
Each school and transportation center will have changes made in important program areas and spaces –
· converting Waterman locker rooms to classroom space;
· expanding the State Street STEM lab;
· rebuilding the middle school gym
· renovating the high school auditorium –
Honestly, the majority of the project really isn’t glamorous stuff – same thing that we as homeowners have to deal with too, even when we would rather not. And once we do the work, hopefully it’s done for another 20-40 years!
Please take us on our invitation to take a tour of the buildings! For some, I know it’s been a while since you been in the facilities, others may never have, and I (we) couldn’t be more sincere when I say we want you to see the facilities - and maybe with your eyes you see something we didn’t.
Remember, these are our buildings!
I hope this helps explain the project a bit more. If not, please call me, another board member, Mr. Slentz, or Mr. Butler to get the answers you need. Our goal is to help you be as informed as possible by November 14. I apologize if this too much communication and you’ve heard enough - I totally respect that. But, if this helps someone to understand the project that much more, than I’m glad it helped.
In the weeks and months ahead, other board members will be writing to you from their areas of interest and/or expertise about goings on in the district. I encourage you to follow these stories and others that will be sent by email, posted on the district's website, on our Facebook page, and will be shared with our local media.
Thank you so much for reading.
Susan Greenfield Murphy
President, Skaneateles Central Board of Education