Since early December, I've read and heard more than 100 comments about the aged New Paltz Middle School. It is agreed the building constructed in 1930 has become a financial burden; it has been found to be unhealthy and unsafe; it is not ADA compliant; and it no longer properly serves the educational needs of the community.
The vast majority of those that commented chose renovation over building new. They favor the current center-of-town location and the lower cost and higher state aid of renovation rather than a new building on new land at the edge of town.
The debate developed more fiction than fact. The most glaring misrepresentation is the cost of the renovation project to the taxpayers. Early on full-page ads claimed the cost to be $80M. Lately, by way of other innovative accounting, $77M has appeared in a letter in the New Paltz Times. But mostly, $50M is used, which is arrived at by ignoring state aid. These are all false. Go to www.newpaltzk12.ny.us to get the correct cost to the district taxpayers: $29,750,000.
For 60 years, I've been involved in school issues. Working with Board of Education members has been a rewarding experience. I've found these men and women to be true pubic servants. They are ordinary citizens who devote their free time working long hours without pay. They take a lot of abuse and criticism, but pay the same tax rates their decisions impose on the rest of us. They deserve our respect and thanks.
Some taxpayers have never seen a tax they cannot hate. More problematic are those who feel it unjust to pay school taxes once their children have completed their elementary and high school education. Perhaps they never considered the people who paid school taxes while they, or their children, attended school. In my case, I have no grandchildren and my son has been out of school for 35 years. I continue to pay school taxes because education is a living entity that cannot be turned off. An educated society is our means to a healthy future.
With the economy so depressed, this is the right time to borrow and build. Low interest rates and favorable construction competition makes this the ideal time to fix the middle school. Waiting two years, as some suggest, will not make things better. It is common knowledge in the financial and economic communities that this recession and its high unemployment rates will not end in two years.
New Paltz voted yes in 1930 to build a new school and paid for it through the decade of the Great Depression. That school served New Paltz for 80 years. Vote yes on Feb. 9 to renovate the middle school and give it a new life.