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Sullivan West Board Picks
134,000-sq.-ft. High School

By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE — March 7, 2000 -- Board members of the Sullivan West Central School District voted unanimously Thursday night to direct architects to design a 134,000-square-foot building to house several hundred 9-12th graders in Lake Huntington.
The 9-0 vote gave the green light to architect Mark Lippi and his staff of the Hillier Group to begin creating three conceptual designs of the high school.
“This is actually for the public, the board and the [school’s construction] committee,” explained Superintendent Michael Johndrow. “It will show you where [things like] the auditorium and gym will be.”
Indeed, some of the major areas of design and construction will be in the gym and 600-seat auditorium areas, though board members opted not to go with a swimming pool.
Johndrow explained that these conceptual designs are not actual blueprints to be used by Turner Construction Company to build the school, but whichever one is selected will be the basis for those blueprints.
He said architects will take into account such items as how to situate the building (for example, who gets a view of Lake Huntington itself), where to have two stories and where to have one (the entire building will not be two stories high), the general layout of the rooms, locations of windows and stairwells, and numerous other matters.
Johndrow expects this process to take a few weeks. Once the board decides which design is the best, said Johndrow, the construction committee (composed of members of the community) will break into four smaller groups – one to handle the new school project and three others to take care of each of the existing buildings’ renovations.
“Actually, the renovations are more complex than the high school,” Johndrow explained. “With the high school, you’re starting from scratch. They [the construction company] are going to replace all the pipes, paint, flooring, etc. in the Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley buildings.”
Of course, Jeffersonville-Youngsville won’t be left out of those renovations, but DV and Narrowsburg are older buildings that have not seen many of the improvements Jeff has.
Though numbers will not be finalized until the board decides which high school design and which renovations to do, financial advisors to the school are estimating the renovations will cost around $21 million, while the new high school will come in slightly over $28 million, bringing the project total to $49 million.
Tax rate estimates are similarly uncertain, but advisors have said that – while the renovations are totally covered by 95 percent state aid – some parts of the new high school are not totally aidable, and the local share of the high school construction will come in around $8 million.
That equates to roughly a $56 annual increase for a $60,000 home, although that figure is averaged out over the course of 20 years, of which in the first four residents will see no tax increase, followed by a gradual increase down the road. (Of course, that doesn’t – and cannot – take into account future voter-approved school projects which result in tax increases.)
Other factors that will affect the cost of the project include state aid figures and construction costs, although a fairly large contingency fund is part of the project’s proposed budget.
The board picked the option the construction committee recommended. Two other options the board considered Thursday night included smaller building projects that would result in a small-to-zero tax increase. To reach those figures, architects had to take out academic items the board felt were necessary to a good education for local children.
The board, however, did not go with a swimming pool nor a larger square footage option, acknowledging Johndrow’s urge to be cautious about tax increases. (DV’s taxes, for example, have already risen this year simply to equalize them with the other two former school districts’ tax rates.)
In the end, residents will get a chance to vote on the entire project – new school and renovations to existing schools – in late June. Johndrow said he is thinking right now about what date he’ll recommend to the board for the referendum.
If voters choose to go ahead with the project, renovations can start immediately, while construction on the school building will begin later and will not be completed till late 2001 or 2002.
If voters reject the project, it is uncertain where the board will head next, but any future high school and renovations plans will most likely not receive the same amount of state aid as is being promised now (between 70 and 90 percent overall for the new school, and 95 percent for the renovations).

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