Voters approve $5.6 million Niskayuna school district project

PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ
Niskayuna's Van Antwerp Middle School in 2013.PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ Niskayuna's Van Antwerp Middle School in 2013.

By Zachary Matson

— Niskayuna Central School District voters Tuesday approved a $5.6 million project to replace roofs at Van Antwerp Middle School, Craig and Birchwood elementary schools and make improvements at the district’s eight schools.

The project — which 78 percent of just over 730 voters supported — is timed to replace retiring debt and is expected to have “no tax impact” on district residents, district officials have said.

“This is an important step in our plan to protect the investment taxpayers have made in school facilities,” Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. said in a statement released with the results.

The Van Antwerp roof replacement is the project’s most pricey item at $1.4 million, and the elementary school roofs are expected to cost around $1 million each. But every school and the district’s Hillside Avenue bus garage will get at least some work.

Described as a “health and safety” project, the work will largely be focused on replacing or repairing electrical panels, heating and cooling systems and installing new fire suppression systems at Rosendale Elementary School and Iroquois Middle School kitchens.

The work will start on the Van Antwerp roof and the bus garage — slated for $104,000 in repairs — as early as next summer, with the second round of work beginning the following summer, according to a project timeline presented to the school board by their architects and engineers.

The over $5 million project could be a step toward a bigger project that would include improvements to “incorporate programmatic changes we are and have been talking about,” Tangorra told the school board at a meeting earlier this year.

In his statement Tuesday night, Tangorra said the project approved Tuesday allows the district to address its most immediate needs, while “we enter a period of long-term planning.”

Discussions about a future project are still in their early stages — Tangorra has said tentatively that another bond could go out for voter approval in fall 2019 or 2020 — and would likely pick up once the project approved Tuesday begins construction.

During an August board meeting, Tangorra said the next bond would likely be “at least” $18 million. In a follow-up interview, he said it was too early to tell what the size of a second project would be and that the district had not conducted financial analysis .