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Bethlehem Bond Project Vote Set For Tuesday

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Infrastructure upgrades at one of the area’s largest school districts will be decided on when citizens vote Tuesday on a $32 million facilities improvement capital project.

The same wear and tear homeowners encounter also happens to Albany County’s Bethlehem Central School District’s buildings and grounds.

"Just like your home, you know, you have a roof that needs to be repaired, we have masonry work that needs to be completed, so we had finished our last bond about a year ago, and we do a buildings conditions survey and look at all the areas that need to be addressed in the next few years and the board decided from that to go out with a $32 million project for this proposed bond."  Superintendent of Schools Jody Monroe notes that there are 111 separate proposed projects district-wide. "So all of the buildings have some work slated for them. Some are outside work, black-topping and things such as that, but all the buildings will have some type of work done."

Should voters OK the plan, work would begin in the spring of 2019, with an estimated completion date of November 2020.   "We've had very little feedback in general. Most of the feedback we've received has been positive. I think that people understand, as I said, just like your homes, that buildings in the schools need to be refurbished and need regular maintenance. And I think the smaller, more frequent bonds allows you to keep the cost low for the community, and also to keep the bonds reasonable."

More than half of the work would be done at the high school, including a $7.8 million renovation of its auditorium, which the Board of Education labeled a "top priority for a capital investment."  Monroe says there was never any thought to building a new high school. The existing structure has stood since 1952. 
Officials say New York state building aid would be applied to approximately 95 percent of the total cost of the project. The district is eligible for state aid reimbursement.  "Our state reimbursement on capital projects is 68.6 percent. We are using our capital reserve fund, which is $4.9 million. That will reduce the $32.2 by that amount. So we're estimating right now that the cost to the taxpayers would be about $16 at the maximum level for a $100,000 assessed home."

The Bethlehem School District, part of the Suburban Council, has more than 4,600 students and 800 employees. 

Voting runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the upper gym at the high school. Both the bond project and drawing money from the reserve fund will be on the ballot.

View the proposed capital project list by building:

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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