Q & A – proposed capital improvement project

This page will be updated on an ongoing basis as questions are received from members of the Monroe-Woodbury community

Questions about the elements and design of the project

Q: There are lots of things the district needs. Why do the fields and HS air conditioning come first?
A: Just like when we make decisions about things that need fixing in our homes, the school district has to prioritize projects; unfortunately, we can’t do everything at once. Based on the findings of the NYS mandated building conditions survey and research conducted by the BOE’s facilities committee, we determined these projects make the most sense at this time, based on safety issues, student and community benefit and budget considerations. This proposed project is only the first step in several facilities projects the district will be undertaking in the years to come.

Q: Why upgrade the high school cooling system? Why not put air conditioning in the middle school or elementary schools?
A: When the high school was constructed in 1998, it was designed to support central air conditioning. Most of the other buildings in the district were built in the 1950s or earlier and retrofitting them for central air conditioning would require a major investment of labor, time and money. For example, it is estimated that the middle school alone would cost $10.4 million. As part of its ongoing study of its facilities, the district will continue to evaluate options that are energy efficient, cost effective and practical as it relates to air conditioning in all of our school buildings.

Q: Why fix the high school air conditioning when other buildings don’t have any?
A:  The high school cooling system is aging and was identified in the Buildings Condition Survey as a priority. We need to do maintenance on the existing system to address concerns that the system will fail.

The facilities committee has been working four years and they have focused on long term planning for our facilities. This project, identified in this first phase, was proposed due to the loss of property and fields as a result of the NYSDOT construction project.

The facilities committee plans to present a comprehensive, more extensive project proposal by 2020.

Q: Why are the high school cooling system and the field improvements being done together?
A: By packaging the two projects together, the district will qualify for state aid that will allow us to complete the project at no cost to M-W residents. The field improvements alone are ineligible for state (building) aid and therefore must be linked with other building related projects to be eligible.

Q: Why bundle the turf fields in with the cooling system? The cooling system seems to be the only project that would actually help reduce costs.
A: The athletic facility improvements alone are normally not eligible for building aid which can be as much as a 70% reimbursement of project expenses. However, when combined with work in a school building, the entire project can be eligible for building aid. The cooling system was identified in the district’s building condition survey as past its useful life, in fair condition and in need of replacement. By linking this school building project, cooling tower replacement, with the improvements to the athletic facilities the improvements to the athletic facilities are eligible for state aid and the district maximizes the aid from the project.

Q:  Is there a specific reason why the two projects (AC and turf) have to be connected?
A: The replacement of the cooling tower and maintenance to the HS cooling system were identified as priority items in the building condition survey.  These systems are past their useful life and in danger of failure necessitating the capital project. The installation of synthetic turf fields was designed to solve the district’s long standing problem of inadequate field capacity and poor field condition due to overuse. This problem has become worse with the addition of new modified teams and the loss of field capacity due to the NYS DOT project at Central Valley Elementary School.

Q: If the AC project were being proposed by itself, would this project have to be voted on?
A: Yes, generally all capital projects must be approved by the residents of the school district. This is the case even when there is no tax impact or the project is funded with existing capital reserves or savings.   

Q: It would be helpful if you shared approximately how much the AC project, turf, and track projects each cost.
A: Approximately $1.6 million for HS AC, $1.6 million for field #3, $3.4 million for field #12 and 1.8 million for track and track related equipment, grand total $8.4 million.

Q: What is the cost to just replace the cooling system?
A: Approximately $1.6 million.

Q: How much specifically will it cost to purchase a turf field for field #3 and field #12?
A: Approximately $1.6 million for field #3 and $3.4 million for field #12.

Q: Is there a way to improve drainage/lighting without putting in turf?
A: Yes, however, those solutions have diminishing returns and limited effectiveness. The more reliable solution is the installation of synthetic turf. Each turf field is the equivalent of three to four grass fields with lower maintenance costs.  

Q: Will the softball field be turf? Lights and scoreboard? Will JV softball field remain?
A: Part of the modifications to field #12 will include lines for softball. If the project proceeds, the Varsity softball team will share access to the turf field with other M-W teams, while maintaining the grass field as its home field. The grass field will be upgraded and improved as part of this project.  Currently, lights and a scoreboard are not in the proposal, but they will be considered as the district plans for future projects. The JV softball field will remain.

Q: What is the timeline for construction?
A: If the capital project is approved, the district will proceed quickly in an effort to have the project completed in time for the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Construction would begin in the spring of 2019 and work would be complete by the end of summer 2019.

Questions about the financial and tax impact of the project

Q: How is  there no tax impact?
A: This project, if approved, will result in NO TAX INCREASE for M-W residents. In 2016, M-W voters approved the creation of a Capital Reserve Fund to serve as a savings account for the purpose of capital improvements. If voters approve the proposition, the district will use money – $4.4 million – from this fund to help cover the cost of the capital improvement project. A reserve balance of $2.8 million will remain in the fund to help support future projects.

Q: How does building aid and borrowing work?
A: The district is eligible for approximately $5.8 million in building aid over 15 years – or 69.7% reimbursement. For every dollar spent, we will get approximately 70 cents back. Annual reimbursement in state aid attributed to this project will be approximately $385,000, while annual debt service (principal and interest) is estimated to be $345,000.

Q: It’s been mentioned by some that some of the money is a “use it or lose it” situation. Can you specify which, if any, funds are in that situation? The $1 Skoufis funds, for example, have to go towards athletic fields or could they go towards anything?
A: The funding stream coordinated by Assemblyman Skoufis and the NYS Assembly are being provided through a state facilities improvement grant. The funds will be used to fund the entire project, which includes the athletic facility improvements and high school improvements. 

Q: It states that the project, with a cost of $8.4 million, will require no tax increase. However, $4 million of the funding will be from increased borrowing, so how will the interest and principal be paid if not through increased taxes?
A: Building aid associated with this project is expected to provide approximately $385,000 in annual revenue while the cost of the debt service is estimated to be $345,000 annually. State aid more than offsets the cost to repay the serial bonds.  In fact, the positive difference between building aid revenue and debt service expense can be saved for future turf maintenance and surface replacement.

Q: With the tax base shrinking due to the annexation of land by Kiryas Joel, how is it possible that this capital improvement will not significantly increase our taxes in the future?
A: While the annexation of land into Kiryas Joel Village and School District will decrease the tax base, this is more than offset by increases elsewhere. The district tax base overall has increased as measured by the tax base growth factor provided by NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. For the current year, the tax base growth factor increased by 1.7%. For the 2017-2018 year the growth factor was 3.1%. These growth factors measure expansion to the tax base brought about by new development. Overall, the taxable assessed value of the district increased by 0.72%.

Q: New York State has a 2% property tax cap, yet my school taxes increased by 4.7% this year – how is that possible?
A: Computing the tax cap is a multi step process that takes into account the tax base growth factor, which measures brick and mortar changes to the tax base, and certain limited exclusions such as capital expenses. These exclusions are designed to take into account expenses that are not controlled locally. The “2%” in the computation is only one factor in the formula and in fact the computation is 2% or the rate of inflation whichever is lower. For the current year, the district’s tax cap exceeded four percent yet the district tax levy increased by only 2.86%.

Q:  Regarding the $5.8 million reimbursement, will that be used to pay off the $4 million in bond borrowing?
A: Yes, building aid is one of several types of state aid that is a revenue source to the District’s  general fund. State aid is used to fund many types of district expenses, including expenses associated with debt service.

Q: 1.  70% of the project was for the athletic track improvements? Or, was 70% of it for the new cooling system?
2.  If so, why is it so important to change to artificial turf and make a new track?  Is it to save landscaping costs?  Besides the fact that we can piggy back it onto the cooling project and somehow found a loophole to get reimbursed by the state, what is the urgency for making those improvements?
3.  It seems to me that the only part of the project that is urgent is to fix the cooling system.  If we use the 4 million that the district has saved, what would we do if something else needs repair?  There would be no reserves?
A: 1. Seventy percent referred to the approximate amount of state aid reimbursement we would receive through the NYS building aid program; $5.8 million in state aid for a project with a total cost of $8.4 million.
2. The improvements to field #3, namely widening the field to accommodate soccer and lacrosse infringed on the track. The track is in fair condition, only six lanes (regulation is eight lanes) and in need of replacement anyway, so it made sense to do the two projects together.
3. The capital reserve currently has a balance of $7.3 million.  After deducting the $4.4 million for this project the new balance would be $2.9 million without any additional contributions. It is our goal to continue to prudently replenish the capital reserve using surplus funds from operations available at the end of the fiscal year.

Questions about the benefits of the project

Q: How would the community as a whole benefit from this project?
A: New multi-sport fields will help negate field space that has been lost as a result of the Route 17/32 construction project. Currently, the district’s athletic fields are often not usable due to weather restrictions, poor drainage and design inefficiencies.The upgraded multipurpose fields would support many events from sports practices and athletic competitions to physical education classes and community use.

Q: How much money do we expect to bring in from the tournaments that MW will be able to host?
A: It will depend on the size and number of events hosted by MWCSD annually but the local economy will definitely benefit with an average ‘spend’ per spectator of $90 – $100 dollars for multi day competitions.

Q: As a committed member of the men’s varsity swim team, I ask why all the money planned to be spent on sport facilities is going to the track, softball, and the Grass athletic field, but no money planned to be spent on the aquatic facility. From prior experiences, the pool needs maintenance. Most of the lockers are destroyed, the showers are in critical condition, the only pull-up bar is unstable when being used, the water fountains either don’t work, or are not sanitary, and the lane-lines are also in bad condition. To conclude, everything is old and needs to be replaced/repaired. I am fully aware that those fields could be improved on, but it is time to pay attention to the pool.
A: During the course of our presentations and discussions with District stakeholders and the community at large, we regularly mentioned the need for more capital work. We recognize that this project would not fix all the District’s problems with facilities and more capital investment was needed.  The District’s evaluation of facilities identified many areas in need of investment such as boilers and heating systems. In addition to these critical building systems, other questions are being evaluated such as: should we replace the existing pool or construct a new pool, do we need more air conditioned schools and classrooms or a new administrative building and bus garage. These questions require more deliberation and analysis before arriving at a clear answer.  I think we understand the fair/poor condition of the pool and limitations of the facility.  Going forward we will evaluate the needs in this area versus other areas and the sentiment and priorities of the community before making recommendations.

Questions about turf

Q: What is the life expectancy of the turf fields?
A: Although, turf fields are often cited as lasting for 10 to 12 years, based on use it can be more like eight to 10 years. The life expectancy will depend on field use (over use) and maintenance. The good news is that the cost to replace the surface of a synthetic turf field is less than the cost of initial installation because only the ‘carpet’ or surface is replaced.  The full cost of installation includes the removal of dirt layers and installation of subterranean drainage systems. These systems do not require replacement with the same frequency as the turf surface and tend to last for decades.

Q: When do they have to be replaced, and where is that money to come from?
A: The funding for the turf replacement will come from the district’s capital fund. The district will continue to set aside surplus funds as a ‘reserve for replacement’.

Q: Isn’t grass safer for athletes than turf?
A: Many studies have shown that there is a negligible or non-existent difference in the prevalence of injuries between turf and grass surfaces. The modern turf surface has evolved and improved as compared to the original turf; making the surface much safer and more consistent than in years past. In terms of natural grass surfaces, one of our problems has been the poor condition of our fields, including rocks that work their way through to the surface and uneven or inconsistent grass surfaces. Grass is also less safe after rain and our fields are known to have sub-par drainage characteristics.

Q: What is the cost of the equipment necessary to install and maintain these turf fields?
A: A grooming machine will be needed to clean the surface of the synthetic turf and level and spread the infill material. This maintenance improves the appearance and drainage performance of the field. This piece of equipment costs approximately $5,000 with a useful life of twelve years. This maintenance would be required twice monthly. Semi-annual professional maintenance is also required including inspection of seams and measurement of the compaction of the surface.           

Q: What is the ongoing cost to maintain these turf fields?
A: Generally speaking, turf fields have lower maintenance costs as compared to grass fields because no mowing, irrigation or special labor intensive care is needed. In our case, we have purchased special turf blankets, slit seeders and watering equipment to try to maintain the condition of our grass fields. These labor intensive interventions have lead to increased overtime expenses in the area of grounds.        

Q: What is the expected life expectancy of these turf fields?
A: Approximately 10 years.

Q: What year was it that the public defeated the line item referendum (back of ballot) the purchase of one turf field? What was the outcome on that specific line item?
A: 2010 with 1,353 – Yes; 3,331 – No

Q: Are turf fields safe?
A: Yes, numerous independent studies from groups such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Health and the California Environmental Protection Agency have validated the safety of synthetic turf.

The research confirms that there is no difference between synthetic turf and grass in the following areas: player performance and injury, health and environmental risks due to crumb rubber infill and risks to players from Staph and MRSA infection.   

The following provides excerpts of some the studies cited above:

  • Safety Study of Artificial Turf Containing Crumb Rubber Infill Made from Recycled Tires: Measurements of Chemicals and Particulates in the Air, Bacteria in the Turf, and Skin Abrasions Caused by Contact with the Surface
  • Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment, Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, Editor. 2010, State of California
  • PM2.5 and associated elements (including lead and other heavy metals) were either below the level of detection or at similar concentrations above artificial turf athletic fields and upwind of the fields. No public health concern was identified.
  • A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds

    National Exposure Research Laboratory Office of Research and Development U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009
    This study and statements of safety by the U.S. EPA of synthetic turf fields and playgrounds containing crumb rubber from recycled tires complements the study and statement of safety by the CPSC in 2008 (see below). In its Press Release, the EPA summarized its findings, including the following:

The levels of particulate matter, metals, and volatile organic compound concentrations in the air samples above the synthetic turf were similar to background levels; All air concentrations of particulate matter and lead were well below levels of concern; Zinc, which is a known additive in tires…was found to be below levels of concern. See December 10, 2009 EPA Press Release, Limited EPA Study Finds Low Level of Concern in Samples of Recycled Tires from Ballfield and Playground Surfaces

  • An Assessment of Chemical Leaching, Releases to Air and Temperature at Crumb-Rubber Infilled Synthetic Turf Fields
    Lim, L. and R. Walker, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health, Editor, 2009

    Initial findings suggested that there was a low likelihood of risk to the environment or public health via drinking water from ground or surface water contamination. Further, the concentrations of VOCs and particulate matter detected above the surface of the fields did not exceed background levels, and thus do not suggest an increased risk from the installation of these fields.
  • A Review of the Potential Health and Safety Risks from Synthetic Turf Fields Containing Crumb Rubber Infill

Elizabeth Denly, Katarina Rutkowski, Karen M. Vetrano, Ph.D., TRC, Prepared for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, May 2008

To date, eleven human health risk assessments were identified that evaluated exposure to the constituents in crumb rubber. Although each risk assessment was conducted using distinct assumptions and evaluated different concentrations of COPCs (chemicals of potential concern) in crumb rubber, all had a similar conclusion: exposure to COPCs from the crumb rubber may occur, however, the degree of exposure is likely to be too small through ingestion, dermal or inhalation to increase the risk for any health effect. The risk assessments have been conducted primarily by state agencies, consultants, and industry groups.

  • CPSC Staff Finds Synthetic Turf Fields OK to Install, OK to Play On

The CPSC staff conducted tests of synthetic turf products for analysis of total lead content and accessible lead. In the above News Release it concludes that, “young children are not at risk from exposure to lead in these fields.”