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State aid to support $70M schools bond

Bond ‘not too good to be true,' Schenectady school superintendent says

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
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Central Park Elementary School will return to being a middle school as part of plans by the Schenectady City School District.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Central Park Elementary School will return to being a middle school as part of plans by the Schenectady City School District.

— City schools need work, but with state aid, that work will have little to no impact on the local tax bills, schools Superintendent Laurence Spring reiterated Tuesday night.

Spring gave a presentation to residents on the district’s proposed $70 million bond referendum set for March 25. The meeting was the first in a series at which residents can learn about the proposed project and ask questions.

“It’s not too good to be true,” Spring told about 15 to 20 residents. “It sounds like it is, but this is one point in time when Schenectady really is getting what it deserves from the state.”

The Board of Education approved putting the project to voters at a meeting earlier this month. The project is to provide needed upgrades to schools and get the district to its goal of a uniform grade configuration.

Spring outlined the current proposal, but also looked to three other phases mapped out for the long term. Each of the phases was put together with an eye toward maximizing state aid, Spring said. Some buildings would see work done over multiple phases to better ensure the aid will materialize.

In the first phase, Spring said, 95 percent of the cost is expected to be covered by the state. Even the 5 percent local share is expected to be covered by a state grant. Worst case, Spring said, taxpayers would pay only $1.14 more per $100,000 of assessed value.

The board committed the district to pre-K to grade 5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12 buildings. Some parents have pushed for K-8 models. Spring has said previously that the referendum is not one on school configurations, but he attempted to address those questions Tuesday night, saying research doesn’t favor one configuration over another.

In Schenectady’s case, he said, the district should provide a uniform experience. The 6-8 middle schools will allow for more gradual transitions, he said.

“The difference … has to do with the people working in the school, rather than how the school is organized,” he said.

Upper Union Street resident William Vining said he had previously heard details of the project.

“It’s clear the schools need work,” Vining said afterward. He noted the state aid. “I think it sounds like a good plan.”

Tuesday night’s meeting was held at Ellis Hospital’s McClellan Street Campus.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Van Corlaer Elementary School. Other meetings are to be March 10, March 13 and March 18.

School tours are also scheduled for March 15 and March 22 at schools that will see work.

 
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