A scaled-back, $16.9 million plan to renovate Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES facilities failed again Tuesday to obtain the required unanimous approval of its 18 member school districts.
Negative votes by school boards in Brewster, Chappaqua and Mahopac effectively scuttled a proposed bond issue. But it did not necessarily kill the construction and repairs that the bond was meant to finance on BOCES’ Yorktown campus. BOCES Superintendent James Langlois is expected to meet next week with officials of the education cooperative to discuss their alternatives.
The setback was the second for the proposal, which had been cut by more than $2 million from a plan rejected earlier this year by six of the 18 districts that jointly own the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
"Had this proposal gone to the public, I don't think that there's a chance in hell that the public would vote for this," Joseph Charbonneau, Brewster Board of Education vice president, said. "As trustees that are charged with the fiduciary responsibility for the taxpayers, I can't support this."
Charbonneau hopes BOCES will "go back to the drawing table" and come up with a more "realistic" plan. Other board members echoed his sentiments. They urged the organization to consolidate wherever possible and "do more with less"—as they said Brewster's done. The vote there was unanimous.
Despite the multiple defeats, BOCES’ Assistant Superintendent John McCarthy said Wednesday he did not rule out trying to change some minds in the three districts that had rejected the plan this week. Twice that number had refused to support the earlier, $19.5 million plan.
"We’re going to be meeting with out board next Tuesday night,” said McCarthy, who was “disappointed” the latest measure had failed to secure a unanimous approval.
The options going forward are limited. They include changing:
- Minds in the districts that rejected the plan, an outcome McCarthy acknowledged was “slim;”
- The project itself, though McCarthy, saying “time is of the essence,” saw limited opportunity to get that done; or,
- The financing, shifting from the long-term bond to short-term tapping of BOCES’ capital fund, into which the districts are already paying.
That last option would mean spreading out the project for a number of years and hiking the size of local districts’ contributions to the capital fund.
“It’s more money than we currently bring in,” he said, noting, “It would obviously increase the amount districts would have to pay into the capital account.”
In response to a question, McCarthy said that while local districts vote on BOCES borrowing, like the failed bond, as well as its administrative budget, they do not have a voice in setting allocations to the capital fund. “We’ve been able to do a lot of work just based on that fund,” he said.
McCarthy called the changes necessary to keep BOCES’ infrastructure up to date, adding, “We do need to repair our roofs and our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems, because they are failing.”
He said BOCES had cut back its original bond proposal by more than 11 percent, savings outlined by officials in a number of areas:
Therapy Pool: Most of the cost-cutting—more than $1 million—was realized by scrapping plans to refurbish an existing therapy pool. Instead, two 8-by-12-foot therapy pools will be installed in the larger pool. The self-contained units eliminate the need to replace filtration, chlorination and heating systems for the larger pool. Other extensive renovations would have been required by the Department of Health if BOCES had maintained the current pool facility.
Roofs: The cost of roof repairs and replacements were trimmed by reducing the original plan’s specifications. While those specs called for installing 90-mil rubber membranes on nine roofs, the revised project will employ 60-mil membranes and replace only eight roofs. One roof will be recoated, not replaced.
HVAC: BOCES made “significant reductions” in HVAC costs by using existing ductwork in the Tech Center and lowering some ceilings elsewhere. The latter move allows BOCES to buy smaller HVAC units. It will also remove but not replace ceiling tiles in some shop areas and the gymnasium.
Local editor Ashley Tarr contributed to this report.