HOME PAGE: News - October 14, 2014




Hyde Park School $18.3 Million Bond Vote


     by Andrew Martin

     Voters in Hyde Park will have an additional item on the ballot to consider when they go to the polls on Tuesday, November 4. The Hyde Park Elementary School (HPES) Board of Directors will be presenting voters with a bond vote in the amount of $18,307,000 to fund major building and renovation work at HPES.
     “The committee formally evaluated more than 20 plans, including some that were more costly and some that were less costly,” HPES School Board Chair Raven Walters explained, “This is the right-sized plan based on anticipated enrollment, and it will provide a learning environment equitable to those enjoyed by other Lamoille County residents.”

The preliminary plan for what the new elementary school in Hyde Park could look like if the $18.3 million bond vote is passed can be seen above. Portions of the current school that will remain after being renovated can be seen in gray, while buildings that will be built new are white. The designs also show the new safe bus drop-off locale as well as the expanded parking lots.  - Photo Courtesy of Hyde Park School Board Chair Raven Walters

     The official warning for the bond vote states “Shall general obligation bonds or notes of the Hyde Park Town School District in an amount not to exceed Eighteen Million Three Hundred Seven Thousand Dollars ($18,307,000) be issued for the purpose of financing new construction of classrooms, gymnasium, cafeteria, storage, instructional and office space as well as infrastructure and site improvements at the Hyde Park Elementary School…” The warning also stated that outside sources of funding, such as grants or other assistance, would be sought to help defray the total cost and expense to the taxpayers.
     According to Walters, the $18.3 million bond would be paid back over the course of 20 years. She also reiterated that if the bond vote is passed, the board will search out additional funding sources and other forms of support to help defray the costs of the project. Current estimates of the impact that the bond would have on the tax rate imply that in year one of the bond the total increase in the annual property tax for a house valued at $100,000 would be $100 over the current payment. That figure would increase to roughly $338 in year two of the bond before decreasing for each of the next 18 years. Copies of the full table showing the impact of the bond are available at the Hyde Park Town Offices, the Lanpher Memorial Library, at the different public forums being held regarding the bond vote, and at www.hpes.org/next100.
     According to Walters, the plans for the new school will not only meet the current needs at HPES but also set the school up for the future. As part of the planned work, the 1898 former LCA building will be renovated. The 1994 wing that currently houses the library and K-1 classrooms will also be renovated.
     “These are cost-effective choices, and in line with the community’s wishes,” Walters explained.
     She added that the gym and the 1951 wing of the building, which currently houses the long row of classrooms at the back of the school, will be demolished and replaced.
     “These areas could have been brought to code, but doing so would have been very challenging and more costly than replacing them,” Walters stated.
     Current plans call for the project to increase the total square footage at the school to 63,000 square feet. The new building will also allow for the separation of the cafeteria and gymnasium into two separate spaces as well as the addition of a new pre-K classroom.Work to the school’s hallways and stairwells will also help to bring the school up to code. Walters explained that work will be done to make the traffic flow at the school be much safer by separating car and bus traffic. Safe, curb-side drop-off zones will also be created for kids and will help reduce the need for parking spaces, although parking space will also be increased. While a general plan for the project has been created Walters stressed that a definite plan has not yet been finalized.
     “We are at the conceptual design phase now,” she explained, “Once a bond vote passes we will enter the design phase where the specifics are worked out and an actual building plan developed.”
     Walters also emphasized the fact that the current plans allow for an additional pre-K classroom, which will soon be needed to meet the legislated mandate that schools provide expanded pre-K educational opportunities in the future.
     “The extra pre-K classroom will be needed in response to this legislation,” Walters explained, “In this sense; the timing of the project is helpful to us.”
     Walters also stressed the fact that the Next 100 Years Committee in Hyde Park, which was tasked with the job of deciding on an option for the future of the school, spent the last year back at the drawing board examining several options that could be less costly before deciding to present the school board with the $18.3 million option.
     “The committee rejected less costly plans because they roundly failed to meet even present day needs, and the tax savings were, in comparison to the recommended plan, surprisingly minimal,” Walters explained, “This is the most cost-effective plan that meets our needs.”
     “The rejected options failed to provide sufficient space, failed to provide an independent music classroom, failed to separate bus and car traffic leaving parking safety – an ongoing concern, failed to separate the gym and cafeteria…” Walters continued. 
     She also explained that the option chosen for the bond vote not only meets the needs of the school for the present and future, but will also allow students to continue learning in their existing classrooms while the new ones are built. Several of the less expensive options would have required that students at HPES spend up to two years in costly modular classrooms while the work was taking place.
     “On top of the disruption to learning, that’s roughly a million dollar expense that just drives off the lot after construction is finished, rather than being invested in permanent buildings that can benefit Hyde Park for years to come,” Walters explained.
     According to Walters there has been a great deal of community interest and involvement since the bond vote was announced. A number of community members turned out for the first public forum on October 1, the board held a public discussion at the Sterling View Community Center on October 9, and another public forum was held on Monday, October 13. A final forum is planned for Monday, October 27. The forum will kick off with a tour of the current HPES building at 6:30 p.m. followed by an informational session starting at 7 p.m.
     “It’s important that Hyde Park voters understand that doing nothing is not an option,” Walters added, “The facility is experiencing increasing, costly failures and we will have to put significant money into the school one way or another.”
     “Until a building project is approved, repairs must be paid for out of the regular operating budget,” she continued, “That means repairs come at the expense of our educational programs, and that money is effectively being thrown away to repair systems that should instead be replaced.”
     Walters also added that bonded debt is predictable, low interest, and carved out from excess spending penalties to protect towns like Hyde Park that need to make building repairs.
     “Large, deferred maintenance projects can’t wait any longer,” Walters stated, adding that attempting to work repairs into the regular budget would only cause the operating budget to rise and cause Hyde Park to hit the spending thresholds that decrease state aid.



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