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Opinion: Vote No on Ossining School Bond

The spokesperson for FreeOssiningTaxpayers.com explains why residents should vote down the proposed school bond issue.

As a spokesman of www.FreeOssiningTaxpayers.com I observe the upcoming school bond vote proposing a new line item of taxation through the year 2036 seems to focus on three major elements:
 
    •    Reapportioning space at Ann M. Dorner Middle School ..knocking down walls and restructuring the floor plan... spending for cafeteria expansion, air conditioning certain areas, new music rooms ($1,431,000), revised library space ($1,836,900), the consolidation of new locker rooms for classroom space ($2,478,000)...and new principal's office, reception and nurses office ($1,125,996).  No direct benefit to SAT scores here. No summer school classes needing a/c. No teachers on the budget to fill the rooms.  "Cultural fluff".  Grand Total $19,237,900.
 
    •    Rehab, rebuild and update non-essential areas of OHS that will not contribute a single point to SAT scores such as new physical ed rooms ($1,993,348), replacement of kitchen components ($1,332,000), rebuilding the auditorium ($2,554,000), installing the famous "Basement Stairway to Nowhere" ($1,016,000), annex window replacement, main administrative offices and nursing office ($1,028,959).  More "Cultural fluff".   Grand Total $19,072,000.
    •    The proposal to completely replace five boiler systems and the back-up generating systems at five schools is the third and arguably most contentious and most difficult all of the issues for the community to accurately assess. 
 
With that issue in mind, I submitted two Freedom of Information Act requests (3/2011 and 1/2012) for all of the school's Accounting Department maintenance and repair records for each boiler system for each school from the period 8/2008 through 12/2011.  I found the complete file containing routine annual maintenance and repair records from the following service providers:
 Atlas Welding $48,230, Ratrick Combustion $23,850, Peak Performance $10,319, Five Star American $12,031 and Ragno $19,989.
 
The Grand Total was $114,419   ...mainly annual cleanings and routine service part replacements...a fairly routine figure for maintenance for six schools, 3 1/2 years of service for boilers installed in the 1980's.   The carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels have been adjudged to be within nominal tolerances.  No Headline News was found in this document review.  $475 per month per school boiler system for maintenance and repairs.
 
A boiler or any electro-mechanical device is made up of individual parts whose individual service life is routinely evaluated in the annual cleanings. The parts for these H.B. Smith boilers Model 640 and these Weil McLain boilers (Series 94 systems) are readily available and are used across the country in thousands of installations. The annual costs of maintenance and part replacement will be almost exactly be the same for new boilers.
 
We will be spending annually for routine inspections, wear and tear of replacement parts (injection nozzles, valves and pump filters...and inspection labor) . The lack of knowledge inside the Roosevelt headquarters about mechanical things is quite evident...stating that we have to spend $12,000,000 and resorting to statements like:  "....ensuring you don't have to unexpectantly replace things already at or past their intended service life when you have no other options." ...as one blogger said yesterday.  Our options are simply to call the schools' preferred service provider in Peekskill and they come right over with a skillfully-trained individual to initiate the repair. 
 
Costs a lot less than Twelve Million Dollars of taxpayers money. 
 
Through the year 2036.
 
As Al Gore famously said about five years ago:   "They are Playing on our Fears."  They certainly are in this case.

The school administration and the school board made a deceptively-clever... or cleverly-deceptive decision based on fear and emotion....a $42,000,000 twenty-year sentence especially harsh on the 40% of Ossining residents who reside slightly above, at, or below the Federally-defined Poverty level to years of taxation through 2036 that none of us can afford in this Recession.
 
I personally heard a school administrator and a general contractor representative tell me face to face several months ago that there had been no financial study of the cost vs. payback period on the cost of these proposed capital expenditures and that no such study was contemplated.  They were hell-bent on buying 'new stuff' and in the process throwing away perfectly well-functioning boiler systems and excellent emergenccy generators sensing a weakness by the voters to understand this particular issue. 
 
With a $105,000,000 annual school budget proposed for the 2012-2013 school year, necessary upgrades can be afforded as they arise and in the process waste squeezed out of the operating budget.  This is the "New Normal" and the school board had better learn to cope with new financial realities that this decade demands.  They will be forced to one way or another.
 
For the complete dollar by dollar detail of these proposed long-term expenditures, please visit www.FreeOssiningTaxpayers.com .
 
Thank you for your time and attention to this important community issue. 
 
Vote "NO" on March 6th at the Ossining High School" 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Steve Wardwell February 22, 2012 at 07:06 PM
(Continued from above) Even with these financial pressures, the District fulfilled its fiduciary duty to maintain buildings in these and many other ways: - Roof replacement and repair - Electric service upgrades - Backflow prevention devices - Fire alarm systems - Window replacement - Emergency generators - Masonry repairs - Univents replacement - Oil tank replacement - Paving and lockers. Each year the district determines which are the most immediate needs to be addressed in our six aging buildings.
Steve Wardwell February 22, 2012 at 07:07 PM
The District answered this question in the Just Ask section of its website. Here's a link, but I've also copied out the text of this particular issue. http://www.ossiningufsd.org/site_res_view_template.aspx?id=4e13b924-e489-46ab-ab30-b49b56dac5d5#Has any money Q: Has any money been set aside to cover the maintenance portion of the bond? A: The importance of the bond is not an issue of lack of maintenance. It is largely an issue of aging infrastructure reaching the end of its useful life. Dollars are budgeted each and every year for the maintenance of our buildings. For instance, we would not have been able to maintain our 30-year-old boilers to the very end of their useful life without constant and careful maintenance. That said, three factors have reduced the annual maintenance budget over the past several years: Knowing that a bond is the most economical and financially responsible approach to funding such expensive items as boiler and roof replacement, select maintenance items were deferred to be included in the proposed bond. Recent economic pressures required that annual budgets be kept as lean as possible, with a high priority placed on our central mission: maintaining teachers in the classrooms. A significant portion of our maintenance budgets had to be devoted to mandated work under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Continued in next post)
Robert Little February 22, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Following a financial analysis performed on all Ossining school district maintenance and repair records for the period 2008 through 2011 (four years) gathered in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the total cost of maintaining and upgrading all of the boilers owned and operated by the school is $475 per school boiler per month. There is nothing wrong with the boilers...all are operating at their peak designed efficiency and NONE NEED TO BE REPLACED!
Brian A February 22, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Mr. Little nails it when he suggests these units are operating at their peak designed efficiency - that of 30+ years ago. Refits and band-aids can't change that much. Newer, more efficient units will save money increasingly every year as fuel costs continue to rise. The addition alone of flex-fuel systems (allowing us to run the units on gas or oil - whichever is less expensive) would have saved over $180k last year had new systems been in place.
Brian A February 22, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Counter to Mr. Little’s point that we don’t need to replace heating systems because we can simply keep repairing them in perpetuity: When WOULD be an appropriate time to replace these items, already at or past their anticipated service life? Should we keep kicking this can down the road until we’re out of options? The investment in replacing them is one that makes more fiscal sense than continuing to throw good money after bad with band-aids. We will have to replace these items one way or another; the difference is how, and how much, we will pay. The reasons for replacing the heating systems are not limited to reduction in repair costs or efficiency, as covered separately: -Thoughtfully-planned replacement of infrastructure at or past its expected life makes more sense than waiting until things ultimately fail, at greater cost and inconvenience. -There's no better time than now. Our ability to negotiate good rates with vendors may never be better. Lending rates are at record lows. Programs in the bond are eligible for over $22 million in NYS Building Aid that may not be offered next year, though we've already paid into that "aid bucket" through our state taxes. If we don't take advantage of it, others will, but we won’t get a rebate either. -Funding these projects, this way, means there won't be an increase in taxes, as the debt from the new bond will phase in as old debt is retired.

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