New Paltz taxpayers say “No” to school board

The taxpayers of New Paltz were not voting, but they were speaking out. And they told the imperial New Paltz school board not to even think about building itself a new middle school.

Feeling the effects of “public input” it had asked for, the school board voted to pursue renovation of the current Middle School.

An emailer who sat through last night’s special school board meeting at the High School reports:

I attended the school board meeting on the middle school tonight. It was a long evening and pretty good political theatre. Packed room, 60-80(?) people, perhaps 20 or so public comments and a few enjoyably snippy-bordering-on-heated exchanges between the board members.

Highlights: Michael Zierler pointing out that the VB has no intention of rezoning the school property to accommodate a potential commercial use of the land… A petition with 803(!) signatures asking the SB to “keep the middle school where it is.”… Long-winded loopy people accusing other long-winded loopy people of having exceeded the alloted two minutes for public comment… Former head of the local teachers’ union doing a 180: last week Ron Simon favored moving, this week he favors staying… Steve Greenfield and President Dressel bandying their Ivy League Creds… Jason West riding in on a white horse to assure the SB he’d conferred with a leading consultant on green building about something or other… An octogenarian from the Hasbrouck family in the public comment queue followed by a kid from the high school.

My favorite exchange:

Public comment person: “I was looking through some of the repairs and improvements recommended in your 2005 facilities study and one of them is for a new kitchen exhaust system and range top. I just replaced the kitchen range top in my home for $350, but somehow the price listed in your study is $190,000. Where does that price come from? I mean, you could buy a house for $190,000.” Mumbler in the audience: “Not anymore in New Paltz.”

Only one fellow stepped up to speak in favor of consolidation/moving. Rod Dressel seemed crestfallen. He was the only SB member vocally supportive of moving but failed to articulate anything resembling a case for it. No one else did. Or has. How crazy is that? I suspect Supe Maria held one of those manicured fingers to the wind two weeks ago and decided she likes her current job. So the proposal to move the middle school died without anyone ever making a thoughtful argument in favor of it.

In the end the SB voted unanimously on a somewhat convoluted resolution to take steps towards rebuilding on the current site.

Well, it’s a start. The school board will probably regroup and begin prosecuting a renovation that will sear another layer of skin off of taxpayers. But if the community takes the next step and says “no” again to the grandiose plans that the board will undoubtably seek to accomplish (with other people’s money), then the road to fiscal sanity might open up.

But my solution remains the same: demand that the entire board resign over this false dillemma that it concocted in bad faith, buy out the contract of the school superintendant, and find a board that commits to a gradual five-year reduction of five percent of the current budget. That would prevent what would likely be a 40% increase over those five years and force the school district to reduce spending that is destroying the New Paltz community.

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