BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Central Board of Education has begun discussing a capital bond project that could be presented to voters as early as fall 2016. The work under consideration includes more than 100 maintenance and building projects identified as priorities in the Five-Year Capital Facilities Plan developed by the district last year. Upcoming board meetings—on June 15, July 5 and August 10—will include public discussion of the scope and timeline of the proposed projects and how community members can get involved.
“Our facilities plan identified a total of $88 million worth of work that could be done in the short- to mid-term timeline,” said the district’s Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe. “From that total, the district has identified a shorter list of about $30 million worth of work we are focusing on as we roll out these discussions. This list was created in consultation with the experts who know our facilities and are experienced in identifying priorities in these areas.
“We are beginning with this list,” she said. “The final amount could be lower or could be higher but that will be determined through conversations with the board and with the community.”
According to Kehoe, 68 percent of the costs of capital projects undertaken by the district are reimbursed by New York state—and that costs to taxpayers would be further reduced through the use of the district’s capital reserve fund, which is expected to have a balance of approximately $4 million at the end of the current fiscal year.
At the June 1 Board of Education meeting, the district Operations and Maintenance Director Gregg Nolte made a presentation highlighting the highest priority projects identified during the development of the facilities plan, which was the result of an in-depth analysis of facility infrastructure and building program needs.
The largest item on the the preliminary list is the potential $5,736,459 renovation of the high school auditorium, which was constructed more than 65 years ago and is used by the entire district as well as by community groups. Improvements under consideration include: upgraded interior finishes and new seating; improved acoustics and lighting, updated stage rigging, installation of air conditioning, addition of a tech booth; and other improvements are being considered as part of the project. According to Nolte, additional funds would be needed to widen the stage area or to significantly expand seating capacity with the addition of a mezzanine to the 780-seat auditorium.
Additional security cameras have been proposed at all district schools, for a total of $877,594; several schools require flame-retardant stage curtains, pool repairs have been recommended at the middle and high schools; Elsmere Elementary needs a new roof and Eagle Elementary hopes to expand its play area and install new playground equipment with the help of the Eagle PTA.
Technology projects are not included in the proposed list of projects since the district is eligible for more than $2 million in New York State Smart Schools funding, said Nolte, and projects funded by Smart Schools will be developed independently of the capital projects now being considered. He said that energy improvements that are being funded through an Energy Performance Contract which recently won approval from the New York State Education Department. (There is no net cost to community taxpayers for the EPC—all costs are offset by energy savings produced by energy efficiency upgrades.)
The Board of Education will resume conversation about a potential capital bond project at its next meeting on Wednesday, June 15. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the high school Library Media Center.
The Bethlehem Central School District’s 11 buildings are located on multiple campuses within the towns of Delmar, Glenmont and Clarksville. The district currently consists of one high school, one middle school, and five elementary schools, with additional maintenance and out-buildings located throughout the District; current district enrollment is approximately 4,643 students.