Below is a great letter that appeared in the local publications:
Allegations from opponents to the New Paltz Middle School Project, followed by the truth:
1. According to district reports, existing facilities are adequate, safe and doing a great job.
TRUTH: A 2005 building survey concluded: "it is questionable that the building can continue to serve the community for an extended period of time without major renovations."
2. $77M is not the way to handle typical repairs and upgrades.
TRUTH: The school is in dire need of much more than "typical needs and upgrades." The $77M cited above does not factor in state aid, estimated at $20M. State building aid has never been cut. The aid is also applied to the interest, approximately another $5M. The local share is $29.8M, with interest it is a total of about $40M over the 20-year bond.
3. The school board plans a 4% tax increase in 2010/11: the district will still be short $1.2M.
TRUTH: This year's budget is running at a surplus. The board has committed to limiting annual tax increases to 4% or less; last year it was 3%. Looking forward, this project would be contained within the historical 4% rate, not in addition to the 4%.
4. State aid cuts coming, stimulus funding ending and school taxes will rise even more with bond.
TRUTH: Educational analysts predict federal funding in K-12 education to increase, not decrease.
5. Teachers, programs, sports, after-school activities are on the chopping block.
TRUTH: This is a capital project, a completely separate budget line from operating. Governor Paterson has proposed an additional $222M in school building aid for the coming year. Paterson's proposed cuts to day-to-day operations that may affect sports and after-school programs is unrelated to building projects.
6. No contingency plan in place, yet other school districts responsibly published plans for budgetary crisis detailing cuts.
TRUTH: The school district is in the second year of a multi-year budgeting process while planning three years into the future.
7. $80M? $100M?
TRUTH: See #2, these are scare tactic inflated figures.
8. Most of the district's reserve funds will be used for the middle school project, jeopardizing needed repairs for our other three schools.
TRUTH: The reserves being used are capital reserves, monies purposely saved for building projects. There are no major projects expected at the other school buildings. In 2005 over 600 items were noted in need of attention, district wide. Since then, all big ticket and urgent items on that list have been completed for every school except the middle school.
9. Green is good, but this plan has no comparative energy audit data to demonstrate the energy and cost efficiency of this project.
TRUTH: The middle school is a fossil-fuel nightmare negatively impacting the health of students and pocketbooks through outrageous heating costs.
10. The school board put forward a multi-million project which violates their own mandate to provide district with comprehensive master plan.
TRUTH: See #8, all other buildings have been attended to. Opponents requesting more planning are pure obstructionists. We need to do this project now.
MariAnn Connolly Sennett