By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY August 18, 2006 To buy or not to buy, thats the question plaguing BOCES officials these days.
Since a $17.2 million renovation and building project was shot down by Sullivan County voters last year, BOCES has been renting an old elementary school in White Sulphur Springs to accommodate its elementary special education program.
But the building, owned by the Liberty Central School District, will need major renovations if BOCES is going to continue teaching students there.
According to BOCES Superintendent Dr. Martin Handler, that means renovations and the addition of classrooms some way, somehow.
Handlers hoping the people of Sullivan County will say yes to a $5.73 million proposal on Nov. 1 that would allow BOCES to actually buy the building theyll be renovating.
The cost will also include the addition of eight classrooms classrooms Handler said would otherwise have to be created in modulars rented by BOCES.
The goal is to finance the project by splitting the cost among Sullivan County BOCES eight member school districts.
If approved, a 10-year bond would be purchased, and work would commence in the spring.
Handler said this a no frills project that would take care of BOCES space crunch for the long-range.
It will do nothing to help alleviate the strain on space for vocational education programming at BOCES, where students are actually being turned away from programs because there is no room.
Culinary I, Auto Mechanics I and cosmetology three of BOCES most popular programs are already full; students will be directed to choose another path of study if they wish to enroll at BOCES.
Thats really kind of unfortunate, Handler said. You want to meet kids needs.
Because the modular that houses the cosmetology program is in extremely poor condition, Handler said BOCES will have no choice but to abandon it next year.
In the summer of 2007, BOCES will move cosmetology into the main building at the Rubin Pollack Education Center, the main campus in Liberty.
That will take up four current classroom spaces space Handler said BOCES doesnt really have to spare.
The proposal last year was to add 18 classrooms at the Rubin Pollack Education Center.
The new project will add eight classrooms to the 10-room White Sulphur Springs school, bringing BOCES to a total of 18 additional rooms for elementary special education.
Its consistent, Handler said, we needed 18 rooms, were looking at 18 rooms.
The Sullivan County BOCES has one of the highest cost per pupil for its facilities, Handler said.
Other BOCES own their facilities while Sullivans rents much of its space, including White Sulphur Springs, the St. John Street Education Center in Monticello and even portions of the Liberty main campus.
Leasing is always going to be more expensive than buying, Handler explained.
You can go back to the 94 referendum, he continued. If that had passed, wed own it all we would have substantially lower costs.
To continue leasing the White Sulphur Springs school, and making the needed improvements and renting modular classrooms rather than building an addition, would cost $4.7 million.
You can say thats $1 million less than buying . . . but the problem at the end of 10 years is you own NOTHING, Handler stressed.
We have to be at White Sulphur, he continued. We have no choice; we have no other place to put the kids.
If its not approved, we have to stay at White Sulphur anyway; we would have to do the renovations anyway, Handler repeated.
Before the proposal goes to a referendum for the voters of Sullivan County, it will have to pass muster with the boards of education at all eight school districts.
The Liberty board has already approved the sale of the elementary school if the referendum passes the district will get the money upfront from the bond, money it will need with its own elementary school building project on the horizon.
The exact tax impact figures are not available because each district receives a different amount of state aid on these types of projects, Handler said.
According to the architects of the plan, at least 90 percent of the project will be aidable by the state.
Before aid figures are factored in, Handler said, the cost will be about $6 per $1,000 of true property value.
Thats $60 per year for 10 years for a $100,000 home before state aid is figured in.
More exact figures are expected before the Nov. 1 referendum.