The opponents of the New Paltz Middle School renovation project are working hard to defeat the much needed middle school renovation plan. They warned the Board of Education some time ago that by putting this issue up for a vote the board would "divide the community." I don't have a problem with a divided community. It can be a sign of intelligent discourse on all sides of an issue. I do have a problem with a community that is divided intentionally to further the ends of a group's hidden agenda. Under the Orwellian banner "Unite Our District" the anti-renovation forces have crafted a campaign of misinformation, fear and deception.
Near Water Street Market there is a large sign claiming the project will cost $80 million. Elsewhere in the village there are lawn signs declaring it to be $100 million. These signs were posted by the same group of individuals. The fact is that the total project loan will be $29.75 million. The total cost is $49.78 million less $20.03 million dollars in state aid. Check the district's website for a full breakdown of how this cost is calculated and how state construction aid will benefit us now. The inconvenient truth Unite Our District does not want you to know: The project will cost the average taxpayer less than $13 per month through an approximate tax increase of 1% per year for four years.
I received a call last week urging me to vote against this project. I was told that the project would "quadruple the district's debt." This statement is intentionally misleading. Every school district in New York borrows money to finance major projects. Public school districts are not allowed by law to save large amounts of money for projects such as this. They are limited as to what they can have as a reserve. The reserve of the district is nowhere near large enough to finance this project, nor could it be. The inconvenient truth Unite Our District does not want you to know: To complete any project, any district would have to incur debt. This is a simple fact of public education in New York. Using hyperbole like "quadruple their debt" is blatantly misleading.
Unite Our District claims that they were not involved in the planning process and have asked the board to study this issue further. This is simply ludicrous. The board has been planning this for YEARS. Any community member with input to share has been welcome to speak at public meetings, which are held twice a month. Some of us chose to do so and were, in fact, a part of developing the plan now before us. The inconvenient truth Unite Our District does not want you to know: The Board of Education has been discussing this in public meetings since 2005.
Some of those against this project claim that the Board of Education is not qualified to run a project of this scale and that the plans are not detailed enough. The Board of Education provides oversight in the broadest sense. They do not get involved with day-to-day management of the district or a capital project. For this they hire experienced administrators and in this case an architect and construction manager. The inconvenient truth Unite Our District does not want you to know: The construction manager has reviewed the plans and found them adequate enough to create a cost estimate. More detailed plans would be developed, as per state law, if the project is approved.
I urge all of us to be diligent about vetting the information we get from lawn signs and on the supermarket line. The facts are readily available and to me they point inescapably to only one conclusion: I will vote yes on Feb. 9. The time is right, the project is right and it's what is best for the children of New Paltz.
For the facts visit http://npcsdms.edublogs.org/ or http://newpaltzmiddleschoolyes.blogspot.com.