Last week Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks said his report to the board was very simple, “Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year. We’re very excited to bring all of our children back to our programs. I’ve wandered through all of our schools and got into a lot of classrooms today [and] just felt the excitement and the nervousness of a first day and wow, we’re back. It was such a great feeling.”
Brooks acknowledged that one of the bumps in the opening of school is the traffic backups on Route 9W.
“We are aware of it and we will do everything over the next few days to minimize the impact of traffic on that pinch-point down there in the middle of Marlboro by our elementary school. It does get better but it always is going to be a pinch point in the morning and the afternoon when there are so many parents and buses all driving into the elementary school to drop off and pick up. So it is a challenge and we work as closely with our folks on the property to maximize as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible to get our children into the building and out of the building onto transportation.” He said the district also works with the police and traffic control partners to see where any corrections and adjustments can be made in the process. He made special mention that members of the new senior class have already painted the asphalt of their parking spots, “and are already on their path towards that graduation stage; a really, really exciting start to the school year.”
Bayside Makes Pitch
Eric Baxter, of Baxter Construction and Development, informed the board on the current status of the residential project that has been proposed for the west side of Route 9W, next to the Middle School. During their presentation it was noted that they have not yet purchased the property.
Baxter told the board they have applied for an 18 year Payment In Lieu Of Taxes [PILOT] with the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency [IDA], “and going before the school board is a step toward that hopeful approval.”
In a recent letter to IDA CEO Rose Woodworth, NYS Sen. James Skoufis [D-NY39] sharply criticized this application.
Dan Rieger, of Rieger Homes, said the Bayside project is a 104 unit apartment complex with a mix of 2 and 3 bedrooms that is proposed for the 25 acre parcel. They will be setting aside 15 apartments as affordable units that will rent from $1,200 to $1,800 per month and the remaining 89 will range from $1,800 to $2,000.
There will be 3 full time employees post construction and up to 100 jobs created during the construction period. He said they expect about $5 million may be pumped into the local economy annually from sales tax and in shopping/services from more than 200 new residents in Marlboro.
Baxter described how the two companies are locally-based and they manage their own projects. He said they take great pride in their work and are concerned how finished projects benefit the communities where they are located.
The company estimated that their project may generate about 60 school age children from ages 3 to 18. The school board pointed out that the cost of educating an average student in Marlboro is $23,000 per year and a special needs student costs $52,000 annually. Taking an average of $25,000/yr and multiplying that by even 40 students translates to a $1 million annual cost to the district. The board posed the question to the developer of how the district would pay $1 million but only take in $106,000 in taxes from the project that will leave the district short by nearly $900,000. That shortfall could go even higher as more students from this project enter the school district. The board had praise for the quality of the work this developer has done but at the moment they believe they are too far apart from a financial perspective.
Baxter said they are seeking a PILOT agreement because construction costs are higher due to the challenge of the site being on a hill and the presence of rock across the property. The mixed use project is expected to cost $31 million to build.
Lauren Rutkowski, Director of Development for Baxter Construction, said the current taxes on the undeveloped site are just over $13,000.
“We’re proposing that we would start the PILOT schedule at 20% of the taxes paid and that would stay the same for the first four years and then it would start stepping up over the course of 18 years so in year 19 it would be the full tax burden,” she said. “When we would start building our project, year one would be $100,000 paid in taxes and that would continue and grow over the course of 18 years. At the end you would have a cumulative $4 million in taxes paid.” It was noted that the school tax is about 60% of the total taxes, thus out of the $4 million collected, the district would receive a cumulative balance of about $2.7 million.
The PILOT agreement they are seeking translates to $6.37 million in tax breaks.
Project attorney Neil Alexander, of Cuddy & Feder, said his clients know that the current uniform exemption policy in Ulster County for an IDA deal for a normal straight lease transaction will not work for them.
“That is why they are here tonight to start talking about a deviation from the policy,” he said. “They [IDA] were pushing down from a longer time period to a shorter time period of assistance and they wanted more money on the front end and there was discussion of including affordable units...I think a large part of what tonight is for us is to say please be our partner in that dialog, please share that information, and let’s do the math together, so to speak, to see if we can get across the finish line and where the proverbial haircuts have to be in order to do that and hopefully we can get there.” He suggested a discussion with a representative from the school board and the IDA as well as with the developer to share information to ascertain the financial and overall long term feasibility of the project.
School Board President John Cantone said he expects the school board will soon be receiving feedback from the public on this proposed project and the PILOT agreement the developer has applied for with the IDA.