Springs School Sets $16.9 Million Bond Vote

Cramped building could grow by 24,000 square feet
A March 6 date has been set for a vote authorizing an almost $17 million construction project at the Springs School. Christine Sampson

Residents of the Springs School District will vote on March 6 on whether to approve the bonds necessary for the district’s $16.9-million expansion plan to go forward.  

The resolution to vote was adopted during Monday night’s school board meeting. It followed a negative declaration determination made by the school board as a result of an extensive environmental assessment that is mandated under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and required when municipalities want to undertake major capital improvements.

The negative declaration assessment, in essence, determined that no significant adverse environmental impacts can be expected if the school’s construction project becomes a reality.

Barbara Dayton, the board president, said, “We are entitled to go ahead with building plans based upon our bond referendum.”

According to the SEQRA report, which is available on the school’s website, expansion of the cramped school will include a building addition of 24,000 square feet; the reconstruction and renovation of 17,000 square feet of existing interior areas; the demolition, upgrading, and new construction of outbuildings; the replacement of existing septic systems with a new, low-nitrogen sanitary system; installation of new access and service roadways and the expansion of the parking lots; the relocation of basketball and handball courts; the expansion and renovation of two grass playing fields, and the installation of a new baseball field. 

The project will involve the clearing of 3.5 acres of trees and forested land within the 24 wooded acres that make up the school property.

According to the report, “The action is proposed to accommodate the projected enrollment increases, allow for better separation of grades, and more efficient use of facilities. The access roadway and parking expansions are to alleviate traffic congestion issues and to service the new building addition.” 

The cost of the project is “not to exceed $22,963,298,” according to the report. Approximately $6 million from the district’s capital reserve fund will be applied to that sum, leaving taxpayers to say yea or nay to the financing of a balance of $16.9 million. 

Michael Henery, the school’s business administrator, offered projected numbers for an increase in property taxes for Springs homeowners: A house valued at $600,000 would incur approximately $163 more a year, or $14 a month, homes valued at $800,000 would face a $217 increase, or $18 a month, and residences around the $1 million mark would see an increase of about $272 annually or $23 a month.

“This is an exciting time for the board,” said Timothy Frazier, its vice president. “We just adopted a resolution that was a lot of work. We feel very confident with this resolution, and now the hard work begins to get the word out to the community.”

Debra Winter, the district superintendent, promised that a newsletter would be sent to the public and presentations would be held at the school.

Carole Campolo, a Springs resident who was at the meeting on Monday, did not share the board’s enthusiasm for the resolution.

“I am very disappointed — and I’m not the only one in the community —that the board has voted for this bond referendum without any kind of alternative,” she said. “We’ve been asking for alternatives to what some of us have labeled the Taj Mahal construction.” 

Ms. Campolo said that many in the community had asked the board for years to investigate alternatives to design concepts presented by B.B.S. Architects and Engineering. These might include, she said, cost-saving features such as metal building materials, or  flexible and movable structures that could adapt to changing needs.

“There was not enough discussion,” Ms. Campolo said. “The board has done nothing but accept a design from B.B.S. that [was presented] in 2014 or earlier, and thousands of dollars later.”

Ms. Dayton responded by pointing out that the architectural company worked at no charge on pre-referendum changes. 

On a related note, Ms. Winter announced that the school was not successful in obtaining the New York State Water Quality Improvement Project grant that it had hoped would help offset the cost of installing the nitrogen-reducing septic system that is featured as part of their proposed renovations. 

The superintendent said she would call the New York State department in charge of the grants to get more details on why Springs did not qualify, but noted that of the 95 grant recipients across the state, none were school districts.