Niskayuna voters may be asked to consider approving a bond to finance fixes to the school district’s most “immediate needs” as early as the fall, Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. said this month.
The bond would be timed with debt coming off the district’s books in 2018, the earliest any new work would begin, and might carry a price tag of around $5 million — a number Tangorra called an “educated guess.”
The capital project would be the district’s first under the leadership of Tangorra, who started with the district last summer, as well as that of the district’s six first-term board members. It would also be an early step toward a broader conversation about a long-range facilities plan already in the early stages.
“World-class education institutions really do need world-class facilities, so that is something to keep in mind,” Tangorra told the school board at its March 8 meeting as they briefly discussed the bond and broader capital projects.
Tangorra said he prefers financing building improvements through smaller but more frequent projects as opposed to huge bond offerings spread out over much longer periods of time, arguing that approach is more effective for maintaining facilities and managing debt.
Board members earlier this month briefly touched on things they would like to see as part of future facilities plans — a new eight-lane track, solar panels, improved kitchens. But those conversations are still nascent.
“It’s a reasonable approach for how we spend money to think about it in both the short term and long term,” Board President Pat Lanotte said. “We will be very careful about how and when we go ask the taxpayers to support infrastructure needs.”
A building condition survey conducted for the district last year will partially serve as a jumping-off point for determining the district’s immediate needs. Van Antwerp Middle School, for example, needs parts of the roof replaced as well as improvements to the locker rooms to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The broader discussion over how to move forward with long-term improvements to the district’s facilities, however, will also be driven by decisions made about where the district wants to make program changes in instruction and curriculum.
The needs of new programs and education strategies will inform the board as it moves forward with pinpointing where to invest in construction and other building updates, Tangorra said. A panel of community representatives the district hopes to convene over the next year and other community members would have opportunities to share thoughts and opinions as the planning process progresses.
“We have some bigger programmatic conversations taking place with faculty that will be extended to the community,” Tangorra said. “So what are some of the changes that will happen programmatically? We don’t want to make program changes and then shoehorn it into the facilities that we have.”