NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna school board on Tuesday night approved plans for a pair of capital project propositions in February: one for $62.2 million in renovations and expansions of the district’s core academic spaces and a second for $16.8 million in upgrades to athletic facilities and other site improvements.
Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. and the district’s architect, financial adviser and construction manager outlined the two proposed projects, and the board unanimously approved resolutions to put the two propositions up for voter approval Feb. 9. In-person and absentee voting upon request will both be options for district residents.
As a whole the combined nearly $80 million in improvements would address critical building needs in all of the district schools, lay the ground for a reconfiguration of middle school education in the district and create academic spaces to foster collaborative teaching approaches.
District officials divided the work into two separate propositions to enable the district to cover the costs of the first project with no new tax increase, while the second part would result in an increase estimated at $28 per year for a home valued at $100,000 over the first two years of the project. The second referendum, which would enable a major overhaul of the outdoor athletic facilities at Niskayuna High School, will be contingent on passage of the first proposition.
“For a $79 million project, we could do this for a few gallons of milk a month and accomplish all of this work, and we are only going to charge that to folks over the first two years of the project,” board member Brian Backus said, summing up the cost to a typical Niskayuna household if voters approve both propositions.
The $62,238,000 proposition includes classroom renovations and needed improvements to the “guts” of school buildings across the district. The plan would also renovate classroom spaces, create flexible spaces for teaching styles, and improve music facilities, cafeteria and other spaces.
A key component of the capital project, nearly $48 million of the first proposition, is focused on restructuring and renovating Iroquois and Van Antwerp middle schools, so the district can shift its grade configurations to have all fifth- and sixth-graders in the district at Van Antwerp and all seventh- and eighth-graders at Iroquois. Van Antwerp in particular will need extensive renovations and improvements to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The project would fund converting the district office space at Van Antwerp into classroom space as well construction of addition at Iroquois.
Glencfliff and Rosendale would receive roof replacements under the fist proposition. Tony Armlin, a construction project manager for the districts, said the Glencliff roof was possibly in the worst shape of any he has seen at a school in his career.
“It is in desperate need of replacement,” Armlin said.
The roof at the district’s Hillside Avenue transportation center would also be replaced at a cost estimated just over $2 million and boilers and HVAC systems would be updated across the district.
Tangorra noted that the work presented Tuesday night has been in planning for the past five years and aims to address needed improvements that have been long deferred in the district.
“Now they have become urgent and critical and the time has come when we must address these things,” Tangorra said.
The first referendum will ask voters to authorize the district to “renovate, reconstruct, construct additional and improve” all school buildings in the district. The second question will ask voters to authorize the district to make improvements to “various outdoor athletic fields, play areas, roadways, parking lots and related infrastructure” at Rosendale Elementary School, Iroquois and Van Antwerp middle schools and Niskayuna High school.
The first proposition would include improvements to the high school track and rework traffic patterns at Iroquois and Van Antwerp, but the second propositions would take those upgrades further and include a complete overhaul of the high school’s outdoor athletic facilities.
The $16,780,000 proposition would include another $11.7 million in site improvements at the high school, including new parking and traffic patterns and outdoor fields. The high school tennis courts are the only aspect of a complete overhaul that would have to wait until a future, officials said.
In financing the projects, the first referendum calls for using $7.3 million from the district capital reserve fund. If approved, the second proposition would boost the overall cost of the project above what could be sustained without new taxes, but district financial adviser Rick Timbs said the boosted tax levy would only be necessary for two years of the project.
Armlin said if the work is approved by voters architects would begin outlining specific design plans to submit to state, eyeing the possible start of construction in 2022. Construction would continue until around 2026, he said.
Board members emphasized that the investments are for the future of the district. Board member Greta Jansson said she has heard numerous complaints about facilities since joining the board.
“For right now it’s gone off our radar, probably one of the least of our worries, but all of these problems have not gone away and they are only getting worse,” she said.