$18.2M building upgrade mulled for GCSD

GUILDERLAND — The school board here is considering a $17.3 million project to update its seven school buildings and improve security and teaching technology. It is also looking at a second proposition, of $846,300, to renovate the high school auditorium and better light the football field.

If the board approves the plan, the targeted date for a public referendum is Nov. 19, with construction to take place in the summers of 2015 and 2016.

If the public approved both propositions, a Guilderland resident living in a home with a median assessment of $246,500 would pay an estimated $68 annually in taxes for the project.

A facilities committee, made up of district staff, community members, and school board members, worked with CSArch Architecture to develop the proposal, which was presented to the board on July 2.

Superintendent Marie Wiles told the board that the plan fit with the district’s vision to “inspire children to become lifelong learners and succeed in a global economy” and with its mission to keep students and staff safe.

“Our very first and most important responsibility is to keep them safe,” said Wiles.

In presenting the plan, Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said the committee used a “no-frills approach.”

He also said, “The world has changed,” as the shadow cast by the Sandy Hook school massacre hung over the room.

The committee’s recommendation comes in two parts, which the public would vote on in two different propositions.

The first, for $17,324,650, is largely for building infrastructure renovations: $14,032,950 for items like fixing roofs, replacing or upgrading heating systems, paving, replacing floors or windows, and upgrading electrical and plumbing systems.

“The failure’s to a point, you can’t patch forever,” said Clifford Nooney, building and grounds supervisor, as he showed the board slides of cracked corridor floors and soffit holes.

He also noted that upgrades in heating systems would lead to savings because such systems would be more energy efficient, using less gas.

Another $1,483,000 of that first proposition would go for safety and security improvements. Nooney showed a floor plan at one of the district’s five elementary schools that would be typical for the changes at all its schools.

“Once we buzz people in the front door, we have no control,” he said of the current layout. “We can’t stop them if we wanted to.”

The new plan would involve building a “double vestibule,” Nooney said, so that visitors have to go through a “two-step process” to be admitted to the school.

Besides the lobby modifications, for $593,000, the plan calls for more security cameras, door access swipe card readers, visitor tracking software, and classroom and office locksets.

The third part of the first proposition would be $1,808,700 for upgrading the technology used for instruction. The lion’s share, $618,000, would go for mobile labs.

Other costs would be for an uninterruptible power supply, wireless access points, network switches, and classroom technology.

The second proposition, for $846,300, is to renovate and upgrade the high school auditorium for $553,800 and to replace wooden light poles with steel poles and better lights at the football field for $292,500.

Nooney noted that the auditorium, in addition to staging school performances, is “a program space” used almost daily. He described the proposed upgrades as “a space makeover” that would also make the auditorium accessible for those with handicaps.

The estimated taxpayers’ cost for the first $17.3 million proposition would be 26.1 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Guilderland residents. The median assessment for a Guilderland home is $246,500, so that homeowner would pay an estimated $65 annually.

For the second, $846,300 proposition, Guilderland taxpayers would pay an estimated 1.3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value; or $3 annually for a median assessment.

Sanders displayed a chart that showed how the 15-year, $18.2 million debt would fit in with other district debts, noting the year the new payments would start, in 2016-17, the old debt “drops off.”

As enrollment declines at Guilderland, the district has hired a consultant to study building capacity during the next school year and make recommendations to the board.

The results of that analysis, Sanders said, will be known before any construction work is bid. The current proposal, which is posted at the district’s website — www.guilderlandschools.org — has flagged items that “must be done regardless to maintain building safety and integrity,” Sanders said.

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