Capital Region

Guilderland school district regroups after $42 million project rejected

Some projects must be done, school official says

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland school district officials are considering how to move forward after last week’s narrow rejection by voters of a $42.7 million capital project.

The proposed project, which included upgrades to aging phone and fire alarm systems, renovations to science classrooms and other infrastructure work, was rejected by 51 percent of the nearly 2,700 residents who voted on the proposal. That was a higher turnout than was seen for the district’s budget vote in May.

The school board meets Tuesday, and the first step will be a look at the results of an exit survey so district leaders can reconsider the items included in the project.

But Guilderland Superintendent Marie Wiles said many of the improvements spelled out in the proposed project still need to be addressed.

“There’s quite a bit of work that still needs to be done,” Wiles said Monday. “We absolutely will need to do some of this work.”

The capital project included more than $20 million in safety and security improvements in district buildings, including updating fire alarm systems, new telephones and public address systems, additional security cameras and the purchase of shatter-resistant covers for windows. Wiles said current equipment is nearing the end of its usefulness, but that the district does have some time to consider how to move forward in replacing them.

District officials will use the results of an exit survey conducted with voters leaving the polls last week to help them determine whether and how to pare back the capital project proposal. They must also decide how long to wait before going back to voters.

“We are waiting on the results of all of that to get a good sense of what was on the minds of our community,” Wiles said.

Wiles said other aspects of the capital project, such as upgrading wireless infrastructure to support expanded computer use, are too costly to include in the district’s annual budget. She said the proposal was pricier than other recent capital projects in the district because the plans also included upgrades to the district’s science labs, which Wiles said are outdated and not suited to how science is now taught.

“Many of the things we need to do are significant costs that really can’t be built into the general fund without creating a big spike in the budget,” Wiles said. “We will certainly be looking at whether $42 million is more than the community can bear at this time.”

The project would have cost the average Guilderland homeowner $103 a year.

Ballston Spa moves forward with $24M plan

While Guilderland grapples with the fallout of a failed capital project vote, Ballston Spa school officials are meeting this week to begin work on a $24 million capital project approved by voters there. That vote was conducted on the same night as the Guilderland vote.

The project includes renovations at Malta Avenue Elementary School and Ballston Spa Middle School, as well as a renovation of the high school auditorium and improvements to the district athletic fields. The district and its architects plan to submit plans for state review in the coming months and begin construction in 2020, according to a project timeline. The renovations would be complete in fall 2022.

Burnt Hills voters to vote Tuesday on $34M plan

On Tuesday voters in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district will be asked to approve a $34 million capital project. That project includes a high school auditorium renovation at an estimated cost of $9.7 million; upgrades at O’Rourke Middle School for an estimated $6.2 million; and districtwide infrastructure improvements, including a new transportation building, expected to cost $14.9 million.

Polls in Burnt Hills will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the high school gym.


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