BETHLEHEM Bethlehem Central School District officials are continuing to seek feedback from the community about bonding for facilities upgrades, and on a Monday, Sept. 10, forum, it was clear there is mixed opinion about the idea.
At the meeting, the district presented a state-mandated five-year plan developed by the district in 2011.
It identified about $9.1 million of upgrades to be made over 10 years to fix up buildings, upgrade water and lighting fixtures and replace aging equipment. About another $4 million would be needed to make expansive athletic facilities improvements and I.T. system upgrades.
The district is already about two years behind with the upgrades, and with budget constraints few options remain available but to bond for the projects.
“Putting something off or not addressing it will have cause and effects down the road. We all have to be cognizant of that,” said Superintendent Tom Douglas, who added if a bond cannot be agreed upon, many of the projects would still need to be done. The money would then need to be found in the budget, potentially placing more programs on the chopping block.
BC Operations and Maintenance Director Gregg Nolte said the main concern is protecting the structural integrity of each of the district’s 11 facilities and 22 out-buildings and ensuring the health and safety of students and staff. Nolte’s department has identified repairs needed to the roofs at Slingerlands and Glenmont Elementary schools and at the high school, with façade and masonry repairs needed at the middle school.
Technology upgrades are needed for the district to support a new state mandate that calls for all standardized testing to be done online starting in 2014.
Since 1989, the district has taken out five bonds totaling $128 million. Money from the two most recent bonds was used to build Eagle Elementary, make infrastructure improvements and to build additional space to move to full-day kindergarten.