October 21, 2021

Dryden hones school upgrade plan

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

The Dryden Middle/High School is shown on Route 38 in Dryden in this 2016 Cortland Standard file photo.

DRYDEN — The Dryden Board of Education is completing plans for a referendum on a construction project to improve district facilities, including adding and improving classrooms, building a transportation facility and an artificial turf athletic field.

The project has been in development since 2014 after an evaluation of the district’s buildings, including everything from the roofs to the foundations.

Superintendent of Schools Sandy Sherwood said the district even had an architect analyze the space to see how it could be used better. The surveys concluded with the idea of making upgrades to every building, such as the addition of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, classrooms at the middle school/high school, an addition to the music wing, a possible new bus garage, cafeteria renovations, auditorium improvements, new safety and security systems and a new artificial turf field.

“This is a big one,” Sherwood said.

The cost is undetermined, as the Board of Education must pick what projects to complete and compile them into two propositions. Six ideas were presented Dec. 12, ranging in cost from
$25 million to more than $40 million. Sherwood said the district does not want to present more than two propositions to the public.

“There are a lot of details to be decided,” said Board of Education President Karin LaMotte, but she plans to have the two propositions ready for the board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

One of the propositions will include the majority of the big projects, while the other will be more basic, Sherwood said. The board is also considering having the public vote for a new turf field separate from the capital project because the turf would be a major expense and cause a steep tax increase.

Sherwood said that if the district were to do everything except the field, the total cost would be about $38.9 million, which would increase the tax rate by 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, without the state STAR tax credit. Adding the turf would increase the cost by about $3 million and the tax bill to 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, without the state STAR tax credit.

The turf is a large tax implication because there is no aid available to help cover its cost, Sherwood said.

“Not to say there is no benefit of a turf field. Homer Central said their field gets a lot of use,” Sherwood said. “Also for a district our size, is a turf (field) appropriate?”

LaMotte said the district has been building up money in its capital reserve fund to help fund the project. But much needs to be finalized. The district is focusing more on the areas of the school facilities it wants to work on and will then move on to the details.

Sherwood hopes to have everything ready for residents to vote on by the end of March. After the approval, architects will finish the details and send the plans to the state Education Department. The state could then take months to approve. After that, the district will let the project for bids. Construction would start in the summer of 2018 or 2019.

Depending on the options chosen, residents may not see a tax increase, if any, until 2019 or 2020.

“Many of the proposals have no tax impact,” Sherwood said. “It all depends on what options are picked.”