In a vote that’s meaningless yet potentially significant, Briarcliff Manor school trustees decide tonight whether to help finance a major makeover of BOCES’ deteriorating facilities in Yorktown.
The project, however, can be scuttled by a single member-district’s negative vote—and it has already been rejected by three of them. But six others have approved it and, with most of the remaining districts taking up the issue this week, BOCES officials hope a strong positive showing could help to reverse the earlier “no” votes. Eighteen districts make up Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, jointly own its facilities and share in the cost of their upkeep.
This week, school boards were scheduled to take up the issue in Briarcliff Manor and Yorktown on Monday; Somers and Peekskill, Tuesday; Garrison and Ossining, Wednesday; and Putnam Valley, Thursday. In Lakeland and Haldane, votes appeared unlikely before next month.
In the —asked to contribute $550,000 over three years, second smallest of the 18 allocated shares—the board was expected to vote tonight on the project’s financing.
The total outlay, by the districts along with a $900,000 infusion of BOCES money, would fund a number of improvements on the 240-acre campus. They include $2.95 million to fix a therapeutic pool, $8.7 million for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) work in all or part of nine buildings and $5.19 million for roof repairs.
But on Jan. 5, exercising in effect a blackball prerogative, the Mahopac Central School District blocked the project, at least for now. Balking at the size and some specifics of the project, the school board refused, 7-0, to shoulder its $1.4 million share of the repair and refurbishing cost.
Later, citing the project’s scope and cost, school boards and Brewster joined in turning down the proposed repairs.
Not discouraged, Dr. James T. Langlois, the BOCES superintendent, plans to rally districts that have not yet voted, urging them to go on record in support of the reconstruction. He will also meet with the boards that rebuffed the proposal, seeking to reverse their vote.
“It’s our hope they would give us an opportunity to address their concerns,” he said. “I’m optimistic we can work things out.”
That optimism is helped by six positive votes already in-hand. Boards in , Carmel, Croton-Harmon, Hendrick Hudson, and North Salem boards have approved the project in recent weeks. The superintendent is now reaching out to the uncommitted.
In a visit last week to the Lakeland Central School District, which is still considering the proposal but remains concerned about its price, Langlois emphasized the “no-choice” nature of the BOCES repairs.
“The lifetime of these roofs and HVACs are ending when they’re ending,” he told a meeting of the school board. “They were all built at the same time; they all need replacing at the same time.”
44BOCES—the Board of Cooperative Educational Services—offers programs of special education, vocational training and online learning, as well as technical and support services. Although the school districts collectively own the BOCES facilities, they cannot collectively bond the capital cost of keeping them in repair. And debt service on the individual bonds each district would likely issue is not an exempt outlay under the state’s newly enacted tax-cap restrictions.
Still, said Briarcliff Trustee Rosella Ranno, BOCES deserves the board’s support.
“The expenditure for us pales in comparison to the wonderful things BOCES does,” Ranno, the board vice president, said at a January 9 work session.
At the same meeting, David Shaw, who doubles as counsel to the Briarcliff board as well as BOCES, pointed out that having a number of districts on record approving the proposed repairs would strengthen Langlois’ hand when he meets with officials who have turned them down.
If the rejection ultimately stands, however, BOCES officials have warned that member districts could face a more costly bill later when repairs have to be made on an emergency basis. While a district can choose how to pay its share—from cash on-hand, for example, or out of its operating budget for each of three payment years allocated for the repairs—most are expected to issue a long-term bond, minimizing the repairs’ impact on any single year’s budget.
BOCES costs are charged back to each of the 18 districts on a pro rata basis, which apportions member contributions based in equal parts on the value of its real property and number of students.
Also on tonight's school board agenda:
- Claim auditor's report
- Budget presentation (debt service/benefits)
- Two tax certiorari settlements