Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seth McKee's Letter to the Editor 02/04/10: Why I am Voting Yes on the Middle School Renovation

I have been on the fence for the past several months about the proposed New Paltz Middle School renovation. I’ve been listening to the arguments pro and con, and thinking about what this means for the future of New Paltz. I have decided to vote YES to the proposed renovation, and I urge my fellow New Paltz residents to do so as well.

My reasons are pretty straightforward:

1) The school badly needs more than a band-aid fix, and it makes economic sense to make this a partially state-funded capital project, rather than a recurring operational expense that we have to pay for entirely ourselves. I don’t want the school board to have to choose between school infrastructure and teachers in the future – which is what will happen if we muddle along the way we have been for years.

2) Having one of our four public schools located within the village is a great asset. Our kids have one school where they are not totally dependent on school buses or mommy and daddy for transportation. Our daughter learned about New Paltz – and about independence -- by being able to walk into the village with friends after school. In many towns, this is not possible due to the far-flung locations of their schools. We need to value opportunities to get our kids walking and riding their bicycles. The current middle school location delivers this.

3) There have been a lot of numbers thrown around about the cost of this project, but the bottom line for me is this: An average monthly payment of less than $14 per month for the average homeowner. For people with lower than average value homes, the cost will be less.

4) The school board has spent several years researching this fully and conscientiously, with credible professional consultants coming up with the plans. A generous contingency is build into the final number, so the final cost may well end up being less than anticipated. Do I wish the project were less expensive? Of course! But I truly believe that this investment in our community will pay dividends for decades, well beyond the cost of this bond.

5) Some of the most popular places to live in the Hudson Valley also have some of the best school districts, with well-functioning school facilities. I’d like New Paltz to remain one of these. As it stands, my family will only directly benefit from this project for one year. And, our son will be part of the group that has to relocate to the Tillson school for a year. But this investment will continue to make New Paltz a place of choice to live and raise a family in, and this will help our quality of life and our property values.

6) This decision is not a choice between a $14 per month increase in our taxes, or zero increase. If we don’t renovate comprehensively, we will be faced with ongoing repair needs at the middle school which will continue to bleed us as a community.

7) Finally – bonding this project and spreading the cost over 20 years is a time-honored practice for financing public infrastructure – and ensuring that newcomers to our great town will contribute just as current residents will.

Seth McKee
New Paltz

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