Voorheesville High School desperately needs a reconstructed, modern roof, according to district officials, and technology upgrades at all its buildings to prepare for the planned shift to computer-based testing and evaluations.
The first phase of many likely capital projects at Voorheesville schools was unveiled during a special Board of Education meeting Monday, Oct. 7. District voters will ultimately have the final word on the proposed $2.7 million project through a permissive referendum tentatively scheduled for Dec. 17.
District officials and board members stressed the proposal was scaled back from the original plan, which totaled more than $11.48 million.
“This is a significant pull back from where we started,” board member James Coffin said.
Fellow board member Gary A. Hubert said the scaled back project is the “absolute bare minimum” that must be done to properly maintain facilities.
“The weakened roof puts in jeopardy the interior structure of the building,” Hubert said. “It has to be done in order to avoid even larger costs in the future to repair.”
A majority of the project cost is tied to reconstruction of the high school’s built-up roof for $2.345 million. The roof would then be under warranty for 30 years. Reconstructing walls above the roof also accounts for $78,000 worth of work. Replacing network switches and adding 60 drops of wireless access totals a cost of $279,500.
Board member Cynthia Monaghan said the limited scope of the project was drawn up to fit what the public could – or rather, would – support.
Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said delaying several improvements and upgrades would allow the district to monitor community demographics and not rack up “massive” debt if there are significantly fewer students.
“One of the issues we are concerned about is we have a declining enrollment. I don’t know if this is going to be just a blip or if it is going to be a matter of reality and trend going forward,” Snyder said. “As we postpone other elements of the project to a future date, it will give us time to monitor our enrollments.”
The enrollment this school year is 1,176 students, approximately 116 fewer than on the first day of school in the 2002-03 school year. Particularly troubling to Snyder is the kindergarten and second grade enrollment on opening day this year, which falls at 66 and 64 students, respectively.
“If that doesn’t change, there are going to have to be some real pointed discussions about the future of the district,” Coffin said, “because it becomes very difficult to hold together a really great school district with just 700 to 750 students.”
Preliminary estimates on what the proposed project would cost homeowners is 6.7 cents for $1,000 of assessed property value in New Scotland, 7.3 cents for Guilderland and 10.1 cents for Berne, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Gregory Diefenbach. The estimates include the 61.8 percent state building aid reimbursement and securing a 15-year bond.
Board President Timothy Blow questioned why the roof has deteriorated as much, as it was installed in 1995.
“This has been a piss-poor roof for the last several years,” Blow said. “Why is it that there is no warranty or any kind of culpability?”
Gene Browning, an architect hired by the district, said built-up roofing typically lasts 20 years. He added the new EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) roofing is more durable and leaks could be found easier.
Browning said approximately 10 to 15 percent of the roof has water absorption issues.
District taxpayers could be faced with another capital project proposal relatively soon.
“In scaling this back, one of the things that I think has to remain out in front and the public has to be aware of is there are other significant things here that the buildings need,” Coffin said. “Depending on other issues with infrastructure, we may have to in two years come back to the public again for another bite of the apple. I don’t want anybody to lose sight of that.”
One big-ticket item to be targeted next is replacing boilers districtwide at a cost of $1.17 million. The next items to be addressed, including boilers, total less than $3.48 million and address fire and safety, infrastructure and a 2,500 square-foot shelter for satellite fields.
The board expects to approve the capital project bond resolution on Monday, Oct. 21.