The Kingston School Bond Vote is tomorrow. Simply put, the school district is asking for us to borrow $137 million to fix the tremendous problems of the hundred-year-old Kingston High School physical plant. If the bond passes, construction is scheduled to begin in 2015, or about the same time as the SUNY Ulster’s Sophie Finn campus is completed right across from the high school.
The Kingston City School District has published some information on their site.
From brick falling out of walls, to antiquated steam heat, to buildings that have to come down, the work has been neglected for far too long. One friend, a 1950’s graduate of KHS, says some of the existing troubles have been around since she was a student.
How we got to this place has been discussed at length. Neglect, bad decisions, short budgets, and age have all been a part of the picture. I won’t go over old ground. Our decision now is to pass the bond or not. The question hinges on what we want for the centerpiece of our public schools, and literally, our city.
At $137 million over the life of the bond, this is no small question. Even with the state kicking in 60% of the tab, the Kingston City School District figures that the annual cost to each homeowner will be about $0.72 per thousand of assessed value, or nearly $100 in our case. Can we find another eight or nine dollars a month to pay for this? Probably, but the city and county tax will ask for more, and our insurance bill doesn’t go down. It’s a lot to ask.
One argument circulating against the project is that our school population may not meet the Superintendent’s ten-year projections. This does not hold water. Whether we choose to educate 1600 or 2400 students in dangerous, dilapidated buildings is immaterial.
I have heard people ask why, if they don’t send their kids to Kingston schools, should they care? They pay taxes, but they get nothing for it, the thinking goes.
What we get is a high school. What we get is an anchor for the schools, for Midtown, and for Kingston. What we do now is a decision on whether the anchor gives us a mooring spot or drags us down.
People are looking at all of Kingston when they make the decision whether to move here. The owners and officers of businesses considering a new home need to know what we have for their families. One thing I know for sure is that people won’t want to move here, and businesses will not want to locate their families here if there is no decent school to send their kids.
If we don’t pass this now, Superintendent Paul Padalino says, “it’s back to the drawing board.” There is no cheaper Plan B waiting to take its place. Construction costs are not going to go down over the next five years. Compliance with codes, heating, asbestos remediation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act are not optional. Emergencies are always more expensive than good plans.
I have just one vote, but I am going to cast it for the plan.