Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Paltz school land vote

Today, New Paltz voters get a chance to decide if the schools will be able to buy some land.  Community sentiment seems largely against the project, and some of the details I've learned today give me pause, while others really clear things up in my mind.

First, the bad.  Whether the reasons for speed are good ones or not, this thing is moving too fast for people to digest it.  Yes, most people prefer to vote uninformed, but they rely on those few who pay attention, and many of those are voting no because they don't know enough.

A real estate broker I know wonders about the soil test on this parcel, which was an orchard, I believe.  Normally, she tells me, soil tests happen before the contract is signed, but in this case it's to be part of the contract.  That makes her nervous, and me too.  I don't know what happens if it turns out to be contaminated.

Another of my friends, a student at the high school, pondered instead using the capital reserve fund for middle school renovations.  I think I can answer that, but first let me explain where this money is coming from.

The capital reserve fund was authorized by voters in 2005 -- the board can sock away up to $5 million for projects like renovating the middle school, although the most they've saved is $1.2 million.  This is money not used in past years, for things like snow plowing, which the voters told them it's okay to save, rather than giving back to us.  In my estimation, this is democratic (we voted), transparent (we know what it can be used for), and conservative (they can eliminate borrowing costs by spending money they have rather than money they don't have).

So why not the middle school?  I'm thinking they don't have enough money to begin to fix those problems, and they're looking to a future without that building.  I don't know that I like that attitude, but the community has spoken pretty loudly in the past.

The rationale behind the land grab is to allow for consolidation, building new near Lenape and pulling back from the middle school.  It could make for a leaner district.  Voting no won't get that money back, because we already told them they could take it.  I'm not saying there aren't good reasons to vote no, but that's not one of them.

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