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 Board cuts more than $16 million from Albany High plan

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 4, 2015) -- The City School District of Albany Board of Education moved closer to approving a new Albany High School facilities proposal Thursday night, cutting more than $16 million from the plan that voters narrowly defeated last month.


The most significant reduction would be the elimination of a new 1,500-seat auditorium that had been part of the Nov. 3 proposal. The reduced plan would keep the school’s current 650-seat auditorium, with a complete renovation and expansion to a capacity of 800-850.


Changing the plan for the auditorium and eliminating proposed renovations to the gym cut about $11 million from the previous $196 million total proposed cost. Additional study is needed on the new auditorium plan before a final cost estimate can be provided to the board. That is expected by the board’s Dec. 17 meeting.


The board approved a resolution Thursday night that fixed the cost of a new proposal at no more than $179.9 million.


“The board is committed to balancing the needs of our students and Albany residents,” said President Ginnie Farrell. “By building on the three years of work we have done in partnership with our community and further analyzing the plan, we have been able to target cost reductions while keeping the majority of student programming intact.” 


The board considered two revised draft proposals for the high school project at the meeting -- Option D and Option E. Both were preliminary design concepts to provide the board with a general idea of the proposed scope of each project.


The board members agreed unanimously to move forward with Option E, which would be developed in much greater detail if the board votes to move forward with a second referendum and if voters ultimately approve the proposal. You can review the preliminary drawings that the board considered at the following links:


In addition to the changes for the auditorium and gym in Option E, the reduced plan also would shift construction of a new academic wing into the first phase to make new classroom space available by September 2019, two years earlier than the previous plan. If the new plan is approved, the second three-story classroom building would be added at the rear of the school in what is now the athletics parking lot.


A key driver of the need for a new high school is the projected growth in student enrollment from about 2,500 currently to 3,000 or more in the years to come. Albany High has about 200 more students this school year than in 2014-15 and already has run out of space to open new classrooms in the current school.


Updating and repairing more than $55 million in outdated or broken equipment and systems in the 42-year-old school also is a critical need. On Thursday, the board emphasized the immediate need for roof repairs.


If voters approve a new referendum this winter, the board vowed to push hard to have the State Education Department approve that work so the roof can be repaired in time for the start of next school year.


The board also backed additional cost-cutting measures totaling about $7.6 million:

  • Using $2 million from the district’s Smart Schools Bond Act allocation to offset the cost of new technology equipment. Those funds had been targeted for use elsewhere in the district but would be redirected toward the high school if the new plan is approved.

  • Saving about $2 million by using less-expensive flooring materials in many sections, including hallways. The previous proposal included durable, low-maintenance porcelain tile throughout the school. The reduced plan would use an alternative low-maintenance material such as rubber flooring in hallways and other areas, limiting the porcelain material for main lobby areas. 

  • Saving about $1.5 million by eliminating three of the five distance-learning classrooms that had been part of the Nov. 3 proposal.

  • Saving about $1.5 million by reusing existing furniture and equipment wherever possible.

  • Saving about $600,000 by not converting a grass athletic practice field to artificial turf.


Voters defeated the $196 million proposal by 92 votes out of more than 11,000 cast Nov. 3.


That proposal would have been supplemented by $123.5 million in state aid, leaving city taxpayers to pay $72.5 million. Taxes for homeowners would have increased from $30-$77 under that plan.


The new plan would cut the local tax impact further.


The proposed reduction in the total dollar amount is 8.2 percent. State aid on the reduced project is likely to remain about the same, meaning the local share of the cost will decrease by more than 8.2 percent.


At the Dec. 17 meeting, the board is expected to finalize the cost of the new proposal, approve a referendum to send to the community and set a date for the vote. Early February would be the soonest that the board could send a proposal back to voters for consideration.


The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,500 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

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