Over the years, the Bethlehem Central High School has received upgrades, but its auditorium is original to the structure. Photo by Michael Hallisey/Spotlight
BETHLEHEM—A $32.2 million bond referendum was approved today (Nov. 29) by residents of the Bethlehem Central School District by a vote of 1,154 to 621—or 65 percent to 35 percent. The approved funding will be used to pay for 111 facilities improvement projects across the district, expected to be complete within four years.
Among the projects included in the proposal are building renovations, structural improvements, paving and drainage work at sites throughout the district, asbestos abatement, electrical and plumbing work and security upgrades.
The cornerstone of the project is a $7.8 million renovation of the existing high school auditorium, including: new seating, lighting, acoustics, and air conditioning; the addition of a new “fly loft” above the stage; addition of a sound and lighting control room; and expansion of the stage proscenium to provide more usable stage space and greater visibility for audience and performers, as well as allow the stage to be extended into the pit area.
Other projects include: renovation of the high school media center; upgrades to the pools at both the middle and high schools; new playground equipment at Eagle Elementary; additional security cameras and new flame-retardant stage curtains at almost all district schools; and more. The list represents just over one-third of the $88 million in infrastructure needs identified in the district’s most recent building conditions survey completed in December 2015.
“The Board of Education is grateful to the community for its continuing support of the school district,” said Bethlehem School Board President Matt Downey. “We are fortunate to have active, involved residents who recognize their schools are the heart of their community and who help us meet our goal of delivering knowledge, character and value to students and families.”
The district is eligible for state aid reimbursement at a rate of approximately 68.6 percent of the total cost of the project. In addition to the state aid, the district estimates using $4.9 million from a capital reserve fund to further reduce the burden on taxpayers. With state aid and use of the capital reserve, the estimated annual cost for a homeowner in the district is expected to be $16 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or approximately $40 on a property valued at $250,000. The costs associated with the debt service would begin in 2021-22, after work on the proposed project is completed, and last approximately 15 years.
Work on the 111 Bethlehem Central capital improvement projects is expected to begin as early as summer 2018 and is currently projected to be complete by November 2020.