District officials say they won’t need to raise taxes
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City School District is planning a series of public meetings in November to introduce a nearly $9 million capital improvement plan that includes the installation of an artificial-turf field at Beacon High School and air conditioning in a particularly stifling wing at Rombout Middle School.
Officials say the plan can be implemented without raising taxes.
Registered voters in Beacon, as well as in parts of Fishkill and Wappinger served by Glenham Elementary, will vote on the proposal on Dec. 5.
If adopted, the multi-use turf field will be the most visible component of the plan, with construction expected to begin in the summer of 2019. It would replace the boys’ varsity soccer field at Beacon High School and be equipped with lights for night play.
Wednesday, Nov. 8 – Beacon High School, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 9 – Sargent Elementary, 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 14 – South Avenue Elementary, 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 14 – J.V. Forrestal Elementary, 4 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 16 – Beacon Recreation Department, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 30 – Beacon High School, 7 p.m.
The field will also be designed to drain rainwater faster than Hammond Field, the flood-prone site on Matteawan Road where the high school plays football.
“The new field will be right behind the high school, where there are no houses, so lighting should not be an issue,” said school board member Mike Rutkoske, who chairs its Facilities and Operations Committee. “Everything really played out with that being a better location.”
Most other schools in the region already play on turf, Rutkoske added. The Haldane school district installed an artificial-turf field in 2013.
The capital plan also includes air conditioning on the second floor of Rombout Middle School and a state-of-the-art science wing and improvements to its home-and-careers classroom. In addition, there would be repairs to the Hammond Field track and maintenance, safety and accessibility upgrades throughout the district.
The $8.995 million project plan would be financed largely with state aid, which will reimburse 67 percent of the construction costs. In addition, the district still has $342,000 from a state program that supports school construction and renovation projects. Its reserves and a decrease in debt when several existing projects come off the books round out the financing plan — all of which adds up to no increase in the district’s tax levy.
“We’re excited to be able to put this plan out for the voters without it having an impact on taxes beyond what we would propose as part of the regular school budget process that the public votes on every May,” said first-year Superintendent Matt Landahl.
Public school districts in New York are required to conduct a survey of their buildings every five years. Completed in late 2015, Beacon’s assessment listed more than 100 items that needed upgrades, from carpets and cubbies in the four elementary schools to fire-rated doors and frames and other safety improvements, to higher-profile projects such as the turf field.
The items were submitted to the state for a priority ranking, and the school board facilities committee then whittled the $18 million wish list to the approximately $9 million plan it will present to voters.
“Our goals were to do everything that was health and safety-related,” Rutkoske said. “Then we went through major projects that will help preserve our buildings. Then, we wanted to have something in every building that people could get excited for,” which ranged from the carpets in kindergarten classrooms to the air conditioning at Rombout, and the science and career labs.
The plan was presented at the Rombout PTO meeting on Nov. 1, and presentations are scheduled for PTO and PTA meetings at the other five schools this month. Community meetings will be held at the Beacon Recreation Department on Nov. 16 and at Beacon High School on Nov. 30.
The polls will be open for voters from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 5 at Glenham for Fishkill and Wappinger residents and at Beacon High School for Beacon residents.
The district expects to have more debt come off its books in 2022 and 2023, which should line up with the next phase of capital improvements, Rutkoske noted.