While many states across the country are participating in early voting in the 2016 presidential race, today is an important voting day for those who live within the Hudson City School District.

It is vital to exercise your voting rights, although it is perhaps more important to exercise those rights as informed voters. With today’s February 9th public referendum, I would like to take this last opportunity to provide a summary of the two propositions on the ballot.

Today’s referendum includes a proposition for the sale of the Claverack School. Any time a district wishes to sell a school building, it must first be approved by the community. If approved by voters, the Claverack School will be sold for $380,000.00. Any money received from this sale or any school building must be put toward existing debt.

The second proposition included in today’s public referendum is for the financing of HCSD’s proposed Capital Project. With voter approval, HCSD will be able to borrow a maximum of $19.9 million to complete the project and approximately 71.4% of the cost would be returned to the school district in the form of state building aid.

It is important to note that this is not “new money” or additional debt. Our existing bonds are maturing and we have a small window of opportunity to refinance at a low rate, with minimal impact to our taxpayers.

In brief, the district plans to move Grade 6 into existing space at the Junior High School in September 2016 and relocate Grade 2 to M.C. Smith Intermediate School in September 2017. These are the first steps in creating more cohesive learning environments that are aligned with state learning standards and grade bands.

The community is also voting on financing the project’s larger vision that includes the construction of an 18,000 sq. ft. primary wing at the Intermediate School for PK – Grade 1 classes, allowing MCSIS to become a Grades PK-5 building by 2020.

The grade reorganization component of the proposed Capital Project is intended to strengthen the consistency of academic programs and instructional practices, as well as foster the social-emotional development of our students. Furthermore, as discussed in my January column, education research indicates that broader grade-spans and fewer transitions can positively influence student achievement and graduation rates, as well as decrease dropout rates. (A list of research references is available for download under the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of our Capital Project webpage.)

The $19.9 million borrowing capacity subject to voter approval would also cover the maintenance and upgrade items recommended by the mandatory 5-year Building Condition Survey (BCS), performed during the summer of 2015. Most of the BCS items fall under two categories: “health and safety” or “structural.” It is important to note that these upgrades account for more than 50% of the total proposition cost.

Health and safety items that would be addressed by the Capital Project include the reconfiguration of the bus loop and traffic patterns at the High School campus, reconstruction of the stairs behind MCSIS, and the replacement of deteriorating bleachers behind MCSIS and in the High School gymnasium.

The project would make structural improvements as well, primarily to move the district toward becoming more energy efficient and ultimately saving the district money over time (e.g., replacement of outdated windows and chiller units, upgrading to energy efficient light fixtures).

Lastly, the financing subject to voter approval would also add a much-needed athletic facility behind the High School (including a standard 400m track and multipurpose turf football, soccer and baseball fields). As many are aware, the existing track is located behind MCSIS and is not useable for practice or track meets. Paying to have students bussed to other districts to use their tracks, or having students walk on Harry Howard Avenue from the HS campus to MCSIS, present safety concerns that the Capital Project aims to remedy.

In summary, the general goal of the proposed Capital Project is to improve the overall quality of education and student experience at HCSD. The project offers bold, creative solutions to enhance student achievement and social-emotional development—mirroring the mission statement put forth by the district. Additionally, modern, conveniently located athletic facilities will provide athletes, physical education classes and taxpayers alike with a safe and scenic arena to exercise, or compete, with Bluehawk pride.

While this figure is significant, the Capital Project is expected to have low local tax impact due to state aid, retiring debt, and improved efficiencies. By way of example, the project is estimated to increase taxes by 6-16 cents per $1,000 assessed value, equaling 6-16 dollars per year for a home valued at $100,000 (dependent on STAR exemption) starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

For more details about the scope of the project, how the funds would be spent, answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and what the local tax impact would be, please visit www.hudsoncityschooldistrict.com and click on the “Capital Project” link.

The vote is scheduled for today – Tuesday, February 9, 2016 from noon to 9 p.m. at the following polling locations:

  • Election District #1: JLE Primary School
  • Election District #2: Greenport Pumper Company No. 1 Fire House
  • Election District #3: Claverack Fire House
  • Election District #4: Stottville Fire House (6644 Firehouse Road, Hudson – located behind Stockport Town Hall)
  • Election District #5: Livingston Town Hall