Desire to improve school facilities outweighed concern about long-term cost as the Peekskill Board of Education voted 4-2 to place a $3.16 million bond proposition before district voters May 17. The vote Tuesday, March 29, sidelined a more limited proposal to spend $2.1 million.
Voicing such sentiments as “Let’s move our district forward,” “The work needs to be done” and “If not this year, when?” board members Marcela Bobe, Douglas Glickert, Tuesday McDonald and Joseph Urbanowicz voted for the larger proposal. Board President Michael Simpkins, who favored the smaller proposal because he was “leery about the long-term cost” despite a desire for “top-notch facilities,” and board member Lisbeth Bock voted against the $3.16 million plan. The seventh board member, Fran Feuerman, was absent.
The board then unanimously approved Fuller and D’Angelo of Elmsford as project architect, Bernard P. Donegan Inc. of Victor, N.Y., as financial adviser and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP as bond counsel; determined that the work would not impact the environment and therefore would not require environmental review or an impact statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act; and adopted a resolution that the work was necessary.
The votes capped a two-hour presentation and discussion of the physical and financial aspects of the work.
Architect John D’Angelo of Fuller and D’Angelo reviewed components of the capital projects proposition, which he had presented to the board in detail March 15:
- Peekskill High School – cafeteria and kitchen renovation; expanded fitness center; a larger, pedestrian-oriented plaza at the main entrance; pavement repairs; door and hardware security upgrades
- Oakside Elementary School – retaining wall repair; wall and roof repair; door and hardware security upgrades
- Administration Center – repair damaged plaster and renovate floor in gym; repair exterior tennis and basketball courts and retaining walls; door and hardware security upgrades
Total cost of the projects is $3,165,000. The work would have no immediate impact on district taxes, and New York State currently reimburses 70 percent of the cost of school building projects. Major items include:
- High school – cafeteria, $1.875 million; plaza, $146,000; fitness center, $84,000
- Oakside – retaining wall, $38,875
- Administration – gym, $310,500; exterior courts, $195,625
- All buildings – door and hardware security, $169,187
Urbanowicz emphasized the importance of making sure that all projects qualify for state building aid. He and Glickert suggested incorporating additional recycling receptacles, and Glickert also suggested improved landscaping around the exterior courts at the Administration Center.
D’Angelo said that, if voters approved the proposition in May, state Education Department approval would likely be forthcoming in early 2012, followed by awarding of bids in early spring. Barring unforeseen complications, the work would be completed by summer of 2012.
Charles “Chuck” Bastian of Bernard P. Donegan Inc. offered an overview of the financial aspects of the proposition and of the district’s existing debt obligations. Of the $3,165,000, $2,086,350 is for construction, $790,775 is for incidentals, $200,000 is for the state Dormitory Authority fee and $87,875 is for capitalized interest expenses. Funding the work through the Dormitory Authority is an option that would help the district if interest rates rose between voter approval and issuance of bonds. The capitalized interest covers the cost of the first-year interest payment, which will be due before state aid – which usually takes 18 months to begin arriving – starts to flow, Bastian explained.
Interest rates on the bonds – with a maximum longevity of 30 years – are projected between 4 and 5 percent. Estimated state reimbursement is approximately $198,000 a year for 15 years. The district will borrow $2,055,000 for the project; the remainder will be financed with $1,032,854 in available surplus funds and $77,146 from the repair reserve fund.
Data presented by Bastian showed the district’s total current debt service as $98,211,811 through 2037, of which $61,972,939 is principal and $36,238,872 is interest. State building aid totals $58,457,495, leaving the district responsible for $39,754,316.
The sidelined $2,120,000 alternative, which would have included only the high school cafeteria and kitchen work, would have been financed with $1,495,000 in bonds and $625,000 from the School Lunch Fund. Bastian listed the costs as $1.5 million for construction, $375,000 for incidentals, $185,000 for the Dormitory Authority fee and $60,000 for capitalized interest. Estimated state aid would have been approximately $137,000 a year for 15 years.
An earlier version of the larger proposition included restroom renovations and cafeteria flooring at Woodside Elementary School and door and hardware security upgrades at Woodside and Hillcrest Elementary School. That work will now be funded through the state’s EXCEL program, or Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning.
The board will continue its work on the budget when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, at the Administration Center, 1031 Elm St. The board is scheduled to adopt the budget for the 2011-12 school year April 12.