As Saratoga Town Board members campaign for voters to approve purchase of an old school for a Town Hall, two former supervisors are going door to door hoping to defeat the plan.
Former Saratoga Supervisor Robert Hall and former Greenfield Supervisor Robert Stokes, who now lives in Saratoga, said they feel the school purchase is too ambitious and too expensive for the town.
The current Town Board has unanimously supported the $4.3 million purchase of the former Schuylerville school on the corner of routes 29 and 4 in the village.
A public vote on the plan will be held during a special election for town residents from noon to 8 p.m. on April 29 in all of the regular town polling places.
Town Supervisor Thomas Wood III said the town has $1.1 million saved for the purchase, and will bond the rest with payback over 20 years.
Hall said it would be the first time in at least 40 years that the town would incur debt.
“I don’t think, with the economy being down, this is a good time to ask taxpayers to go into debt,” Hall said.
Wood agreed the town has not borrowed money for a long time, if ever. But he said debt appears to be inevitable.
“I’m not crazy about [going into debt] myself. But we can’t save the money fast enough and the cost of property and construction are going up all the time,” Wood said.
The former school building is owned by developer Sonny Bonacio. In addition to the building and its 1.54-acre lot, the town would be buying a heated garage and an adjacent lot that is almost half an acre.
“The planned town facilities take up a little more than half of the former school building at approximately 12,900 square feet,” he said. “The remaining space is leased out to paying commercial tenants.”
He said the rent money from the tenants will offset the mortgage payments on the building.
Stokes said he opposes the town becoming a landlord.
“The town has no industry to speak of and the Town Board would be taking over the one small thing there is,” he said. “We don’t need a building that is that big and we don’t need a 57-parking-space lot.”
Hall said the building, if sold to a commercial entity, would generate $20,000 in village taxes, $56,000 in school taxes and $14,000 in town tax revenues.
“There’s $90,000 a year if it were sold to a new enterprise,” he said.
Wood said he understands all of the concerns Hall and Stokes have brought up, but the current Town Hall is sinking and too small for town business.
He said a committee studying several options voted to accept the school as the best one.
He said the heated garage has five bays.
“One would be used by the state police and the other four have not been determined yet,” he said. “The town has been approached by the food pantry, which needs storage space and one of the bays could be used for that purpose.”
The town has estimated the tax impact on property owners will average $25 a year for 20 years.
Stokes and Hall said the price is too high when added to current taxes and anticipated increases in school and other local property taxes.
Open houses will be held at the school from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and from noon to 8 p.m. on April 29.
Additionally, the Old Saratoga Historical Association will hold its monthly meeting at the school at 7 p.m. on April 24. A tour will also be given before the evening’s program, which is titled “Memories of the Corner School.”