Frequently Asked Questions about the referendum
Please be sure to check back to this page often as more FAQs will be added throughout the fall.
How were the renovation project needs determined?
In January 2013, the Guilderland Central School District Board of Education authorized the formation of a committee to examine the needs of the district’s facilities with particular emphasis on the following areas:
• Renovations in electrical, heating and ventilation, plumbing, roofing, and site work as well as addressing current State Education Department building code requirements at each of the district’s seven school buildings and at the maintenance and transportation facilities;
• District wide technology improvements including infrastructure upgrades as well as enhanced instructional opportunities in technology for students particularly through wireless access; and
• Health, safety and security improvements including enhanced visitor access controls at our seven school buildings.
Guided by the district’s architects, the Facilities Committee—made up of parents/community volunteers with backgrounds in construction and facilities, teachers and district staff, administrators, and Board members—met throughout the winter and spring to assess conditions within the seven school buildings. Committee members toured facilities and talked with staff during that time, as well.
Incorporating a thorough consideration of existing district resources as well as the current and future needs of our students, the committee presented its final recommendations for action to the Board of Education in early July. A resolution was then passed by the Board on September 10, 2013, establishing that a building project referendum will be put before district voters later this fall.
What makes these projects our highest priority?
The goal of the proposed building project is to protect the community’s long-term investment in its schools by addressing necessary internal and external improvements. Items identified for attention by the committee focus primarily on protecting the health and safety of students, staff and visitors; addressing products, systems, or equipment that is at or near the end of its life expectancy; and replacing failing or deteriorating building components.
Much like any home, schools face a repetitive cycle of replacements: roof, furnace, hot water heater, doors, windows, driveway pavement, etc. With seven large school buildings, there will always be periodic facility needs to be addressed just to properly maintain and preserve the community’s original investment. Many of the items identified by the Facilities Committee as requiring attention are health and safety concerns (ventilation, flooring, traffic patterns, etc.), or through their failure (heating systems and roofs in need of replacement, upgrades to electrical systems, etc.), have the potential to disrupt the educational process. These needs will not go away.
In addition, items such as security cameras, door swipe card readers, and lobby modifications to enhance visitor access controls are necessary upgrades to ensure the safety of students and staff at all levels.
With respect to technology, the plan outlined by the Facilities Committee will enable the district to institute upgrades to its technology infrastructure and provide enhanced instructional opportunities for students district-wide well beyond the capacity of its annual budget.
The projects identified on the second proposition— renovations and upgrades to the high school auditorium and light pole replacement on the high school football field/track—address the need to continue to provide for quality learning experiences beyond the classroom.
Didn’t district residents just vote on a building project referendum a few years ago? why are we having another one?
Like most school districts, Guilderland is comprised of
buildings of different vintages, ranging in age from 19 to 60 years old. Due
to the mixed age of district schools and building components, upgrades and
replacements become necessary on a somewhat cyclical basis. That means that
in order to appropriately maintain its buildings and remain good stewards of
the community’s investment in its schools, the district needs to assess–and
likely address–facilities needs every 5-7 years.
The last GCSD building project referendum was held in November 2007. Prior to that, the district held a community vote to address facilities needs in 2001. As the age of district buildings continues to increase, it is not unexpected that projects will arise for public vote on a regular basis. To delay necessary repairs and replacements can often be more costly than addressing the needs on a schedule–think about the cost to call a furnace repair service to your home on a cold Saturday night versus simply having an annual fall furnace check-up. In addition, waiting to fix issues on an emergency basis is often more likely to disrupt the educational process for students, especially if a building component or system fails during the regular school day. For these reasons, the district has made it a priority to take a proactive approach to ensure that its facilities are consistently well-maintained and safe.
How does the district’s current building capacity study factor into the building project referendum?
Guilderland Central School District is presently undertaking a district-wide building capacity study in order to evaluate its use of space and to determine whether or not there may be more cost-effective ways to deliver its K-12 programming. This study, which began in September 2013, is completely separate from the building project referendum going before voters on Nov. 14. However, it is important to note that the projects outlined in the referendum are based on current program delivery models. Should the findings of the building capacity study result in alternate future program delivery models (i.e., dispersing students differently within district, closure of a school building, etc.), money would not be spent for improvements no longer needed under a new/revised model.
How does the building project enhance security features already in place throughout the school district?
Parents want to know that our schools are safe and that appropriate security procedures are in place at all levels. Guilderland Central School District takes these concerns very seriously and has instituted numerous policies and procedures to ensure that our students and staff are learning and working in a safe environment. This includes crisis management and training for staff, tighter building security, strict school policies at all levels, and well-established community partnerships. Proposition 1 of the proposed building project plan going before voters on Nov. 14 will allow the district to enhance many of the security features already in place throughout the district:
• Over the past several years, the district has invested in security camera systems for each of the school buildings and the transportation building. However, there are still areas that lack coverage.
• The district currently utilizes electronic swipe card readers for door access at all buildings but there are several access points where they have yet to be installed.
• Included in the last capital project (2007) were funds for the replacement of some classroom and office door locksets in an attempt to move toward a universal, district-wide common lockset and keying arrangement. The locksets have an “intruder” core which means that the door can be quickly locked from inside the room but the inside lever always remains unlocked for emergency egress. Yet there are still many doors that have not been upgraded.
• Controlling building access is an essential element of school security. Fortunately, most of our school buildings can be rather inexpensively modified to create a secure and monitored area to control visitor access. In some cases, it means moving or adding a second set of interior doors controlled by school personnel using a visitor window. Several district buildings already have an enclosed entrance vestibule. The two buildings requiring more extensive building modifications to achieve the desired visitor access control are Lynnwood Elementary School and Guilderland High School.
While GCSD has numerous programs, services and technologies currently in place as part of its safety “toolbox,” school security is an evolving area with new resources and opportunities available every day. One such new technology relates to visitor management software—a tool included in the proposed building project that would be implemented at all seven school buildings. Several companies offer software systems tailored for school districts to keep unwanted visitors out while logging those that are allowed to enter. These products scan a visitor’s driver’s license and instantly screen nationally for registered sex offenders and against a customized school-created list of restraining orders, custody issues, or persons not permitted on school property. If a potential threat is identified, the system is capable of sending instant alerts to administrators and law enforcement. For cleared visitors, the system prints a badge with the visitor’s name, photo, date and time, and destination. The system also maintains a historical record of all visitors.
How will the proposed technology upgrades directly impact students?
The technology improvements proposed as part of the
building project referendum are designed to improve the district’s
technology infrastructure, resulting in enhanced instructional opportunities
for students. A significant portion of the upgrade budget will go towards
the purchase of additional mobile laptop carts for the five elementary
schools. Each cart is comprised of 30 laptops, ensuring that all children in
a classroom have direct access to the technology being utilized during a
lesson. Used by teachers and students at all elementary grade levels, mobile
labs bring technology into the regular classroom and allow for the seamless
integration of technology into the teaching and learning environment.
Also included in the proposed project is the addition and/or upgrade of more wireless access points, network switches, and other classroom technology upgrades in various school buildings. Improvements such as these to the district’s technology infrastructure ensure that students can access and benefit from all of the electronic educational tools available to them. The planned district-wide replacement of uninterruptible power supplies with battery back-up will also protect students’ access to technology services, allowing them to continue to work in the event of a short-term power outage.
Why aren’t the auditorium and athletic field light pole upgrades included as part of the main proposition?
The goal of the main building project referendum is to
protect the community’s long-term investment in its schools by addressing
necessary internal and external improvements primarily focused on basic,
core building components. The items identified for attention by the
Facilities Committee as part of Proposition 1 are considered essential to
the success of the Guilderland educational program; the failure to address
these items may present a health/safety risk or interrupt the educational
process. The high school auditorium and football field/track light upgrades
identified by the Facilities Committee are important but are not considered
as essential as basic building infrastructure, security, and instructional
technology needs. While not operating in optimal conditions, both of these
spaces can still be used in their current conditions. For these reasons, the
Committee recommended presenting the proposed improvements as a separate
Why is Proposition 2 important?
Spaces such as the auditorium and athletic fields contribute to the success and development of the whole child and provide opportunities for quality learning experiences for students outside of the classroom.
• Throughout the school year, the high school auditorium is used for numerous school and community events including concerts, plays, and other special presentations. Many of our district’s brightest stars routinely showcase their talents on its stage. However, the seating in the high school auditorium is old and repair parts are no longer available. In addition, the auditorium does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for handicapped accessible seating. Included in Proposition 2 is $553,800 to replace all of the auditorium seating and to ensure that it is ADA compliant. Also included in the proposed auditorium upgrades are improvements to both house lighting and specialty stage lighting and controls. The lighting will be upgraded and aisle lights added to increase light levels and energy efficiency in the space. The outdated sound system will be upgraded, as well, with new controls, enhanced mixing capabilities, and a new audio distribution system and components.
• The high school football field and track also play host to many events throughout the year. From football games and homecomings to track meets and community fundraisers, these areas are considered hubs of school and community activity. While still functional, the stadium lights surrounding the football field and track are a safety concern due to their age and construction. According to district records, the light poles and lights are more than 20 years old. The poles themselves are 70 to 80 feet tall, wooden and buried ten or more feet into the ground. However, they are not mounted into concrete. This is of concern since the lights mounted to the poles weigh in excess of 3,000 pounds. Included in Proposition 2 is $292,500 to replace the existing wooden light poles with metal poles mounted on concrete bases for safety and durability. In addition, all light fixtures would be replaced, as well.
How much will the proposed building project cost me?
For district residents owning a home or property with an
assessed value of $246,500 (the median assessment in the Town of
Guilderland), the estimated tax increase per year for the proposed projects
based on current information is:
• Proposition #1: $65 (26.1 cents/$1,000 assessed value)
• Proposition #2: $3 (1.3 cents/$1,000 assessed value)
• Total for Propositions #1 & #2: $68 (27.4 cents/$1,000 assessed value)
How will the bond issue affect the district's tax levy limit calculation?
Under NYS Law, debt payments for building construction and improvements are an exclusion from the tax levy limit calculation. Therefore this bond issue will have no impact in determining the threshold for voter approval on the budget (i.e. simple majority vs. super majority).
What happens if voters do not support the project?
Many of the items identified by the Facilities Committee as requiring attention are health and safety concerns (traffic patterns, ventilation, lighting, etc.), or through their failure (heating systems and roofs in need of replacement, upgrades to electrical systems, etc.), have the potential to disrupt the educational process. These needs will not go away. If the proposed project is NOT approved by voters on November 14, it is very likely that the district would have to come back to voters in the future to take care of these items at higher prices—for instance, waiting until a heating system or roof fails, and then having to replace it on an emergency basis.
Can voters approve one proposition without the other?
When district residents head to the polls, they will vote separately for Proposition 1 and Proposition 2. The larger proposition (Prop 1) can be approved without the passage of the smaller proposition (Prop 2). However, the passage of the smaller proposition is contingent upon the passage of the larger one. Should residents pass Proposition 2 and not Proposition 1, both will be considered defeated.
Where can I get additional information on the proposal?
Community residents are invited to stop by a number of community meetings (PTA, Board of Education, etc.) to learn more about the building project referendum. View a list of upcoming opportunities In addition, you can read the complete text of the Facilities Committee Report (PDF) to the Board of Education or view the Facilities Committee presentation to the Board on TWC Channel 16 each Saturday at 12 p.m. and every Monday at 7 p.m. (thru Nov. 14). A special edition district newsletter will also be sent out to all residents in early November.
*NEW* On Tuesday, October 29, GCSD held a community meeting in the Guilderland High School LGI, where district residents could learn more about the building project referendum and ask questions about the propositions to district leaders and project architects. Learn more about the meeting, view the presentation shown that night, or watch a replay of the event by visiting the Building Project Referendum home page.
Where can I get additional voter information?
To learn more about how to vote on the upcoming building project referendum, please visit our voter information web page.