SOMERS, N.Y. - James Langlois, Superintendent of the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) appeared before the Somers Board of Education on Tuesday night to make his final plea for funds for capital improvements to the BOCES campus.
BOCES comprises 18 Northern Westchester and Putnam County school districts, each of which is being asked to contribute a sum to cover the cost of the project. Somers, whose share would be about $1.2 million, is the last of the 18 component school districts to vote on the project.
“Five districts have already voted no,” said Langlois. “The primary reason they’ve presented has been the inability to exclude this from the property tax cap. We’re hoping to get a property tax exemption from Albany.”
“If we don’t get the exemption from the tax cap, we’d have to cut people to offset the cost,” said board member Sarena Meyer.
“This is not something anybody can do without pain,” Langlois responded. “If we didn’t literally have roofs and hvac systems that are failing we certainly wouldn’t be here talking to you.
“The project is not going to happen unless all 18 districts vote yes,” Langlois explained. “We can’t do nothing, so we’ll be back in September with something else. Not all of the work can be put off forever. I doubt we’ll see interest rates any lower than they are now.”
“I’m worried that we’ll be paying a bond possibly for the next 18 years,” said board member Harvey Kriedberg. “It seems to me that our special education population has been declining. In five years it’s possible that you won’t need all of those buildings.”
“The career and technical numbers are increasing,” responded Langlois. “The special ed numbers are staying the same.”
“If you think of all the services BOCES provides, it probably affects every child in our district,” added board president Maureen Miller. “The services are beyond just our children going there.”
“You have homework to do,” board member Ifay Chang said to Langlois. “You have to present a plan, not just buildings. The $19 million is not that big an issue. Go back and get a new plan with a larger umbrella. Other than just saying, hey, our roofs are falling down.”
The Board of Education voted 3 for and 3 against the BOCES proposal, with one abstention. Meyer, Kriedberg and Cirieco each expressed conceptual support for BOCES and the improvements project but felt a more structured and more transparent plan must be presented. Several board members expressed the hope that Albany would approve an exemption from the tax cap.