On Dec. 16, the New Paltz School Board voted to put a bond measure up for public referendum asking if we should renovate the middle school. Almost no one is saying we don't need to renovate the middle school -- those who oppose the renovation simply state that times are too hard right now to justify it. A small number of opponents make the ridiculous claim that we shouldn't do this because it 'divides the community'. Come on -- I've been here 15 years and New Paltz has pretty much always been divided over one thing or another. It's what makes us great -- passionate civic engagement. Don't underrate it.
The simple truth is that we need to renovate the middle school. In fact, it should have been renovated years ago. Instead of biting the bullet and making the necessary repairs, prior School Boards voted to simply patch up the building we have. As was mentioned at last night's School Board meeting, one such 'band-aid' cost us $14 million. Yes, times are tough, but the longer we wait, the more expensive this necessary work becomes. Capital projects don't get cheaper if you put them off year after year -- they get more expensive. And in this case the recession works in our favor because of the low interest rates, low cost of labor and lower cost of materials.
Yes, $49.8 million dollars is a lot of money if you're buying a house. But it's not a lot of money if you're re-building a middle school. In fact, it's eerily average for what other local school districts have spent recently on similar projects.
We need this renovation. It's cheaper to do it now than in a few years. We need to do this not only for those children going to the middle school in the next few years, but for those who will be going to the middle school over the course of the next century. The question is: do you want to spend money now to get these desperately needed renovations done, or do you want to spend a lot more money a little bit later in order to do the exact same work?
It would be irresponsible of us to do anything but vote YES on this proposition.