Niskayuna school officials mull $50 million project

Project could go before voters in the fall of 2020.

Niskayuna School District Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. on Monday put a ballpark figure on a capital project the district is considering: $50 million.

District officials have outlined a plan to put a major capital project up for voter approval in fall 2020, citing estimates of growing enrollment and facility upgrades needed to advance the district’s education approach.

A committee of community members has been tasked with developing proposals for remaking the district’s buildings, work that could include a reconfiguration of how grade levels are grouped. Officials have said the project was likely to be one of the biggest in the district’s history.

But a figure listed in a board presentation Monday appeared to be the first public disclosure of a price tag, though Tangorra cautioned the estimate was a long way from final.

“These numbers aren’t by any stretch of the imagination solid,” Tangorra told the school board.

Tangorra said a more exact estimate will come after meeting with financial consultants as the district settles on solutions to basic building needs and capacity concerns. The new debt will also need to align with expiring debt, in order to minimize the impact on local taxpayers, he added.

As part of his annual “State of the District” presentation Monday, Tangorra mapped out a long-term schedule of capital projects, starting with the $50 million project in 2020, and followed by a $40 million project in 2025, with $20 million projects coming every five years thereafter. He said the district needs a pair of larger projects to address outstanding facility needs before transitioning to a regular schedule of moderate capital projects.

District officials believe new housing developments, and a turnover of empty-nester homes that is expected to bring more families into the district, will require more classroom space. Most of the district’s buildings are nearing capacity. Craig Elementary has surpassed its capacity, meaning some classes are larger than district targets.

“We know we have more students on the way,” Tangorra said.

Teachers and administrators have also outlined needs for upgraded science classrooms and new space that offers more flexibility for teachers and students.

Tangorra said he planned for the committee to present its proposals to the school board over the summer; and more precise cost estimates would be available around that time, too.

$900,000 fix to downed transformer

The school board also approved spending up to $900,000 in emergency funding to replace Niskayuna High School’s transformer, which forced the school to close for two days after the transformer failed on Jan. 30.

The high school generator, which powers the campus, experienced a “catastrophic failure,” according to the resolution that authorized the spending. Other parts of the school’s heating and electrical systems were damaged in a fire caused by the transformer failure, and yet more systems were impacted after temperatures dropped inside the school, due to the power outage.

The emergency funding will cover the cost to replace the old transformer with a new one the district found available in Ohio. The new transformer is expected to be at the school sometime next week.

Carrie Nyc-Chevrier, district director of business and finance, told the school board she was working with the district’s insurance company to figure out how much of the replacement will be covered.


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