Budget, building and high-tech on the horizon for Roxbury Central School
By Trish Adams
It’s the season of school budget votes, and Roxbury Central School finds itself in a perfect trifecta of opportunity, challenge and necessity.
At its next budget meeting on March 26, Superintendent Thomas O’Brien and the board will be demonstrating the ins and outs of the 2014-15 budget, which must not exceed a 0.9 percent increase in the tax levy. Due to arcane formulas and exceptions, the increase allowed is not even the “two percent” number you hear in the news.
Then, in Roxbury, there are not one, but two, capital projects afoot; one will be vetted and approved by the voters, the other is being entirely funded without public dollars, due to the generosity of a RCS alumnus.
Unless you’re really paying attention, it can be confusing to distinguish the bricks and mortar project on the ballot from the other exciting infrastructure projects underway.
Those people who attend the March 26 budget hearing, will hear detailed budget analysis and the whys and wherefores of the capital project on the ballot, so that, come Tuesday May 20, they will know exactly what they are voting to fund and how it will affect their taxes.
The Numann Center
The Numann Technology Center is a project taxpayers can enjoy without having to fork over a dime. It will be a technology center for both students and the public and it’s the brainchild of 1949 RCS alum Guy Numann. Numann bequeathed significant sums to RCS with a goal of making future generations of Roxbury students competitive on the global technology front. Establishing the Greater Roxbury Learning Initiative Corp. (GRLIC) was the first step in building this technology and engineering resource.
The Numanns, and the school, have spent the past few years trying to figure out how to fund and build the Numann Center — a technology center and cutting-edge computer lab for both students and the community. State Senator James Seward helped by securing a $100,000 gift for the project. After three bid attempts, RCS now has the build-out team in place, including Nichols Construction from West Shokan/Andes, Hinkley Electric and Knoth Plumbing.
Teachers and students will be able to use the center for instructional use anytime during school hours. The public will also be able to use it during the hours that GRLIC volunteers staff it. It’s also hoped that the community and the school will use the center for conferences and workshops that require high-tech capabilities.
The Numann Center will not cost the school taxpayer a cent. Funding includes $250,000 that Numann donated and the additional $100,000 Seward contributed from discretionary legislative funds. The Numanns also contributed an additional $75,000 to help the project meet prevailing wage standards.
Now let’s talk bricks and mortar
In the late 1990s, RCS built a major addition, which was bonded for a period of 15 years. That debt burden will be history soon, which means that slice of the tax levy will also disappear from Roxbury school property tax bills, bringing some timely relief.
In the meantime, few significant repairs have been made to the original structure, a beautiful but aging Depression-era building that now needs some basic maintenance. This is the capital project that taxpayers will be asked to support. The board and administration of the school have kept these projects on hold until the debt service on the addition and other repairs were coming to an end. Many are health and safety issues, such as replacing the 75-year-old slate roof and improving the interior to save money on energy and fuel efficiency. The project also includes repaving the parking lots, renovating the oldest bathrooms, providing a shelter for the buses, and work on the bus garage. The proposal calls for bonding $4 million and using $1million from capital reserves. The timing also makes the most use of New York State building reimbursements, so that taxpayers will still feel some tax relief on the “capitalization” front when the 1990s addition has been paid in full.
Taxpayers will be voting on this project at the May 20 budget vote and election. A mailer has been distributed to taxpayers and the community breaking down the bonding process in detail and explaining how building reimbursements will help minimize the impact on school tax bills.
The next budget meeting and board presentation on building projects will be Wednesday, March 26, at 7 p.m. Additional meetings will be held on April 9 and May 14, with a budget presentation on May 6. Call 607 326-4151 for more information.