Around 20 residents turned out for the first of three information sessions about Scotia-Glenville School District’s proposal to buy 7.3 acres adjacent to the high school for $999,000.
Attendees pressed Superintendent Susan Swartz about the negotiations with the landowners, timing of the vote and the district’s plans for the site, with some residents expressing concern the asking price was too high and the plan poorly communicated.
District voters will be asked to approve the $999,000 land purchase in a referendum scheduled for Feb. 9. The purchase, which will be financed over 15 years, would cost district taxpayers around $6 per year for a home assessed at $160,000.
Information sessions will be held at the middle school library at 7 p.m. on Thursday and 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 8.
“The property is a nice property, although the price is very expensive in my opinion,” Herbert Crandall said at the meeting. “$100,000 per acre — if you start searching the tax rolls I think you will find no one has paid that in Glenville.”
Crandall also questioned why the district didn’t do a better job of relaying their plans to the public. The school board signed onto an agreement with the landowners in October but didn’t publicize the Feb. 9 vote until January, and initially the board scheduled just one public meeting — the night before the vote.
Swartz said she felt the district had communicated well but that she learned “a valuable lesson” after hearing from residents who didn’t agree and had unanswered questions about the plan.
“I may have thought we were communicating much more clearly than we apparently were,” she said after the meeting. “I think we have talked about this a tremendous amount [with staff and the board], but that doesn’t necessarily translate to us communicating as well as we should have to the public.”
Some of the residents said they were worried that not only would it cost taxpayers to fund the purchase but they would also have to pick up the tab when the property was removed from the town tax rolls.
But other residents said they supported the land purchase, arguing it could help resolve traffic and safety problems around the middle school — which abuts an industrial park with heavy truck traffic — and preempt the risk of the land being used for a development that would disrupt the schools. One of the attendees suggested the land could be used for an educational garden.
“I think it is a great opportunity, personally,” Ed Capovani said.
School officials have said they don’t have any plans for what to build on the land if voters approve the purchase and that a subsequent building project would also need funding approval from voters. Swartz has suggested the site could hold an early childhood center, alternative school for struggling students or BOCES program.
She said the district wasn’t looking for land to purchase but didn’t want to turn down an opportunity to buy land adjacent to its existing high school campus.
Ultimately, she said, she was asking voters to “take a leap of faith” into what the district’s future could look like.
If the district acquires the land, Swartz said, officials would seek public input and another funding referendum wouldn’t take place for two or three years.
“I don’t get to decide by myself, the school board won’t just decide about what to plop down on that site,” she said. “The community will have a say.”
Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.
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