After voting for a third time in less than a year, Chappaqua's school board approved going along with Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES' proposed building overhauls.
The approval, which was unanimous, came after the board rejected proposals in January and in October. At the start of the vote discussion, board President Victoria Tipp explained that concerns about the project included transparency, accountability, the district's ability to give input and BOCES' responsivness.
The board changed its mind because, Tipp explained, BOCES has agreed to establish two new committees to give its 18 component school districts more of a say. One committee will deal with oversight of the capital plan and feature a mix of officials from BOCES and the school districts; it will also be able to shape cost savings in the project. The other committee will focus on the future of BOCES in general, and having repesentation for the districts.
The promise from BOCES to establish the new committees, Tipp told her fellow board members, came out of an Oct. 25 meeting the entity had with officials from Chappaqua and two other districts that rejected the plan in October (they were Brewster and Mahopac).
The project, which will total roughly $16.9 million for a series of infrastructure repairs an have working ranging to repair overhaul and internal parts replacements, requires a $1.2 million share from the Chappaqua school district, a matter that frustrated school board members. The board expresss disapproval of a funding formula that allocated the share; it includes a mix of property value and enrollment as the basis. In order to proceed with the work, however, BOCES needs unanimous approval from all 18 school boards, which it failed to achieve in the previous two votes.
The failed January vote came when an initial project version had a price tag of more than $19 million. Cost reductions for the current version were implemented, BOCES officials have explained, through replacing a therapeutic pool with two, self-contained areas, using a smaller HVAC unit in a building, switching to a propane boiler in another, and not replacing smaller items such as some ductwork and ceiling tiles.
Earlier this fall, BOCES planned to proceed with the work, anyway, by billing the districts for the cost through raising a required annual capital fund contribution, but has changed course in allowing for a re-vote.
Tipp described the change as a “good step.”
Board Vice President Alyson Kiesel said that she appreciated "they were listening," and taking the steps.
Still, board members voted with reluctance in their demeanors. They hesitated at first before approval.