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EDITORIAL: ICC capital improvements? Yes


LOOKING FROM THE OUTSIDE IN, it doesn’t appear that the school buildings of the Ichabod Crane Central School District require over $27 million in repairs and upgrades. But after reports, committees and endless meetings plus years of inaction, the ICC Board of Education has concluded that’s the least the district needs.

Voters will have the final say Wednesday, December 12, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., when the proposal is the only item on the ballot of a special district-wide election.

Other school districts in the county have won support for major capital improvements in recent years. Germantown has a project underway and Hudson has installed a track and expanded its middle school to house elementary grades after closing one of its buildings. ICC sold its two oldest buildings years ago and consolidated operations on a single campus. The district has no place left to shutter as a way to reduce costs.

There are 70 bulleted projects that would get some of the money in the ICC capital improvements proposal. Many of them come from a Facilities Committee report. The committee found the district’s five buildings–three schools, a bus garage and a maintenance building–would cost about $42 million to fix. That amount was a non-starter but it did allow the school board to consider a scope of work that was larger than the relatively modest plans initially discussed.

Voters may see items on that list of 70 that make them say: It’s about time! and others that set off their Whaaat the…? alarm bell. But the public doesn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the items on this menu. It’s either Yes or No. So here are some things to keep in mind.

If you are eligible to vote in this election, the ICC school district is an asset and you are one of its owners. One way or another, you are going to invest in preserving its value. You can do that in an orderly fashion by supporting this plan to replace outdated and inefficient systems. Or you can vote against the plan and wait for systems to fail and require emergency repairs. Emergencies are costly.

The district has to come up with all $27 million to start with. ICC has $1 million in a reserve fund piggybank and the rest has to be borrowed. But the state will reimburse the district for an estimated 73.5% of the cost. That would mean the district is borrowing principal of about $7 million for a $27 million project.

Not really. The district will borrow all but its $1 million from the reserve fund by issuing bonds that pay interest. When you factor in the interest, the total cost of the project over 15 years will be more like $38 million and the district’s debt payments could balloon for much of the payoff period, according to former ICC Superintendent Jerry Callahan.

The nine members of the ICC school board have these facts and all but two have endorsed this plan. These rational people have looked long and hard at the facts and say the plan addresses pressing needs. They pay school taxes too.

It’s neither a pretty plan nor a visionary statement. It’s a response to long overdue upkeep of the community’s schools. Its costs may strain some school budgets over the next 15 years. And most people won’t notice the improvements or how their schools are safer and more contemporary. But students will. On December 12 in the ICC District, vote Yes on the School capital improvement proposal.

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