Voters will head to the polls Thursday to decide whether the Niskayuna Central School District should bond $3.2 million to buy the bus garage it currently leases.
District officials want to buy the 26-acre property at 1301 Hillside Ave. it has leased for about two decades for its transportation facility. They say that they will save $4.8 million during a 15-year period by owning the property instead of leasing the space. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Niskayuna High School orchestra room.
Matt Bourgeois, assistant superintendent for business, said the district looks at it as a cost-saving opportunity. Next year’s lease payment is about $420,000, but the interest and principal on the bond payment would be about $284,000, which results in a savings of $136,000.
The current lease has an inflation factor of 5 percent built into the contract, according to Bourgeois. The total lease costs during the 15-year period would be about $9.1 million, according to district officials. The total cost to purchase the facility would be $4.26 million when financing costs are added to the $3.2 million principal bond.
“As we began looking at it from a cost-benefit analysis, it became obvious to us that if we had the opportunity to purchase it, we would have greater savings,” Bourgeois said.
The district will be reimbursed by the state for 67 percent of the bond principal and interest and 63 percent for the cost of utilities and maintenance.
The Niskayuna Central School District occupies about 130,000 square feet of the 195,000 square feet, according to Bourgeois.
The district would earn revenue by owning the property. For the first six years, it would receive two-thirds of the $150,000 income from the property’s current commercial tenants plus rental income from the parking lot and cellphone antennas on a defunct water tower on the property. After that period, the district would get all the money.
“There’s some other space that we could lease either to an outside company or we could look to share services either with a neighboring school district or a neighboring municipality,” Bourgeois said.
In addition to the buses, the facility houses the operations and maintenance department, maintenance and groundskeeping equipment, paper and parts needed districtwide. The existing structure doesn’t need any significant upgrades, according to Bourgeois. “They’ll be routine maintenance that will be performed by our existing staff,” he said.
School officials believe maintenance costs will be limited. The district is budgeting an additional $28,000 next year for utilities, 60 percent of which will be reimbursed by the state.
Bourgeois said the district would still benefit from having this facility if it subcontracts out for its bus drivers, as it is considering. The district would still have a fleet of buses that it would maintain and it wouldn’t have to pay an outside firm to provide buses.
If voters approve the purchase, Bourgeois said, the next step would be to conduct an environmental assessment of the property. Some portion of the buildings have asbestos, according to district officials.
“We would attempt to close by the end of the school year,” Bourgeois said.
If the proposition fails, Bourgeois said the district could try again and put it back on the ballot for May, depending on why it failed.
With the district facing a $6 million gap between next year’s projected revenues and expenses, Bourgeois said this purchase will contain costs and generate future revenue.
“This purchase is an opportunity to preserve student programs in our schools,” he said.