In response to calls from districts to save money, officials from Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES have created a scaled-back capital improvement plan to fix its aging facilities.
The revised plan, which was presented to Chappaqua's school board at its Sept. 27 meeting, calls for spending $16,944,701, down from the $19,050,000 price tag from an earlier version that was proposed in late 2011. The initial version, which required unanimous approval from all 18 constituent school districts, was rejected by six of them, including Chappaqua. Bedford Central, whose school board has yet to get a presentation of the new plan at a regular meeting, was among those who approved the old plan.
To save on funds, the new plan has changes that include building two smaller therapy pools within the footprint of the aging original one. The benefits touted include the fact that the spaces are each self contained and allow for BOCES to avoid costly replacements of filitration and heating systems for the original. Other changes announced include using a smaller new HVAC unit for Building B, keeping the current ductwork at the tech center, not replacing ceiling tiles in certain buildings and switching to a propane boiler for Building E.
There is some new work added in, however, which includes new decking for the Fox Meadow building and masonry repair for the tech center.
The burden will be split among the 18 districts using a 50-50 formula that is a hybrid of their respective property tax bases and utilization of services. At the Chappqua board meeting, some members felt the system was unfair, given that the district is among those most affected by the tax element of the formula.
“They’re allocated unequally," board President Victoria Tipp said of the costs.
The response, from BOCES board member Anita Feldman, was that the current system is an improvement, because prior to a state legislative change made seven years ago, only the property tax base component was used.
In total, Chappaqua is on the hook for more than $1.2 million, or 8.3 percent of the total cost. Bedford Central, which also has a higher-valued tax base but has more utilization of services, has a $1.7 million share (11.03 percent), the single highest out of the 18 districts.
In exchange for the districts taking on the costs, which may have to be done through bonding, BOCES would drop its requirement for an annual contribution to its capital fund. Currently, it has been charging $600,000 annually for the fund, which will act as a contributing financing source. An official from BOCES told the Chappaqua school board that it would be several years before the contribution would be asked for again.
BOCES wants a vote on the plan by Oct. 9. If it fails, then BOCES plans to move ahead, anyway, and doing so by raising the amount asked for under the capital fund. The project in that case would take about four to five years instead of the anticipated three years, it was explained at the board meeting.
Chappaqua school board members, who felt that BOCES did not do a good job with its earlier proposal, pressed officials on other possible ways to save money, whether it could be through an energy performance contract, building closure or selling property. The response to the majority of requests was that they would not be practical for this situation, although an open mind was kept with regards to selling property in the future.