South Orangetown Central School District

Capital Improvements Bond FAQ

Frequently-asked questions and responses will be updated on a continuous basis throughout the duration of the Capital Improvements Bond project.


How does the 2022 Capital Improvements Bond benefit students?

Students learn best in healthy, safe and comfortable environments. Air quality, temperature and lighting, in particular, have been found to directly impact student outcomes. The proposed project would replace our aging HVAC system with a “dedicated outdoor air system” (DOAS), which provides enhanced filtration and delivers cooled, dehumidified outside air to our classrooms in warm weather and heated outside air in the winter. Electrical system upgrades and the replacement of fluorescent fixtures with LED lighting are also within the project scope. Expanding the number and location of classroom electrical and data outlets would better support current and future instructional technology needs, while appropriate casework would provide better storage, reduce clutter and improve accessibility. Finally, the project provides for window repairs and the ​​installation of new fire-rated doors, frames and alarms in classrooms.

Safety is at the heart of the relocation of the Cottage Lane Elementary School main entrance, which will reduce non-essential visitor traffic inside the building and lay the groundwork for an anticipated redesign of the bus loop and parking area in Summer 2025.

Preparing our high school students for college and career includes providing them with experience working in modern learning spaces. Auditorium renovations at the high school will include ADA-compliant seating, as well as sound, lighting and flooring upgrades.

Site work on our grounds will expand the use of our school campuses for learning with outdoor classrooms at all four schools. The renovation of the upper grass playing fields at South Orangetown Middle School will offer an outdoor alternative for physical education classes and enable our middle school athletes to practice and play on their home field. Students and our community members will also benefit from the construction of fitness paths at both Cottage Lane Elementary School and South Orangetown Middle School.


How did the District choose which spaces would be renovated for this project?

Based on extensive, long-range master capital planning over the past several years, which has included a district-wide Building Conditions Survey; building-level conversations with staff; meetings with architects; and, detailed facilities tours and discussions, the following criteria was created to prioritize needed capital work:

  • Is the work student-focused?
  • Is the work aligned with our Strategic Plan in terms of
    • promoting academic success,
    • enhancing the health and safety of our school community, and
    • fiscal responsibility?
  • What must be done to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our students?
  • What additional work would we like to do to support current and future programming?

Finally, the team created a series of maps of our buildings and assessed learning spaces based on:

  • HVAC system age, performance and control efficiency;
  • Quality of lighting and flooring;
  • Adequacy of electrical and technology outlets; and,
  • Condition of casework, sinks and plumbing

How many classrooms will be renovated overall?

The pre-referendum scope estimate is that 93 classrooms will be completely renovated in the proposed project. However, depending on the bidding environment, the actual number of classrooms renovated may vary slightly.

Needed capital work was prioritized based on extensive research, including the Building Conditions Survey, building-level conversations with staff; meetings with architects; and, assessment of learning spaces according to HVAC system age, performance and control efficiency; quality of lighting and flooring; adequacy of electrical and technology outlets; and, condition of casework, sinks and plumbing.

Here is the estimated breakdown of renovations, by building:


  • All 34 classrooms will have HVAC work completed.
  • 27 out of 34 classrooms are now slated to be renovated in the proposed project scope. The remaining seven classrooms have had some recent renovations
  • Replacement of the main playground.


  • All 33 classrooms will have HVAC work completed.
  • One of 33 classrooms is slated for renovation in the proposed project scope. The remaining classrooms have had renovations–abatement, ceilings, LED lighting and painting–completed more recently than the other schools through Facilities summer projects.


  • Twenty-four of 58 general classrooms will have HVAC work completed and are slated to be renovated in the proposed project scope. Seven classrooms were recently renovated.


  • Forty-eight of 82 classrooms will have HVAC work completed and are slated to be renovated in the proposed project scope.
  • Installation of a video board in the main gym.

Will HVAC systems be renovated for all classrooms?

All classrooms at WOS and CLE, as well as the cafeteria and gymnasiums in both schools which are the large group meeting spaces in these buildings.

At SOMS and TZHS, which are more complex, multi-story structures, certain spaces have been prioritized based on performance of existing systems, as well as construction phasing and financial constraints. The District is proposing to install DOAS (dedicated outdoor air system) HVAC systems; ductwork must be built from the rooftop units downward, which means that the top floors are the first to be addressed. At SOMS, new HVAC and control systems will address the entire third floor and the World Languages hallway on the second floor–the top floors of their respective wings. The focus at TZHS will be on the 200, 300 and 400 hallways which house English, social studies, math, computer science and engineering classes, and a few science classrooms. The “C wing” (world language, business and a few science classrooms) was more recently renovated and is climate-controlled. The 100, 700 and 800 hallways are under consideration for a future renovation project.

Throughout the district there are multiple HVAC systems with pneumatic controls. These controls are original to the buildings. In replacing these systems, we will gain some major advantages:

  • Energy and cost efficiencies gained by being able to schedule and make adjustments to the HVAC equipment using the Building Management System (BMS)
  • More effective modulation of valves and dampers to create comfortable and reliable climate-controlled classrooms
  • More efficient and timely troubleshooting of HVAC issues using the BMS

Window/AC units recovered from renovated classrooms will be redirected to spaces not covered in the current project scope so that all classrooms will have cooling capacity by the end of the project.

What will the South Orangetown Middle School upper grass field renovations entail?

The renovation of the upper grass field at SOMS will include the addition of underground drainage, irrigation, grading and sod.

Will parking lots, driveways or sidewalks be addressed in the project scope?

No. There have been preliminary conversations about addressing the CLE bus loop and parking area in Summer 2025; however, that would be accomplished as a Facilities project funded through annual budget appropriations.

When will schools be under construction?

Work will begin in Summer 2023 and be completed by Fall 2027. Proposed work is anticipated to be phased as follows:

  • Phase 1: WOS and CLE – Work to begin in Summer 2023 and be completed in Fall 2024
  • Phase 2: SOMS and TZHS – Work to begin in Spring 2024 and be completed in Fall 2027

Construction will not occur during the school day.

How does the bond project scope align with work that the District already has planned for Summer 2022 and Summer 2023?

Every project selected for the 2022 Capital Improvements scope of work aligns with the District’s master capital plan. Summer 2022 and Summer 2023 projects funded through annual budget appropriations will lay the groundwork for much of the work to be performed in the proposed referendum and will include: electrical reconstruction work necessary for upgrading classrooms and HVAC systems; continued bathroom upgrades; and, replacement of water fountains with filtered water bottle fillers. In Summer 2022, the TZHS Counseling Center will be completed to provide a one-stop location for students to access school counselors, psychologists, prevention and social workers. Technology infrastructure and security system upgrades are also being aligned with the proposed bond construction through the District’s Smart Schools Investment Plan (SSIP). Pending timely State review and approval, SSIP work is anticipated to begin in Spring 2023 and be completed in Fall 2023.

When were our schools built?

Original construction completion dates were: William O. Schaefer Elementary School, 1965; Cottage Lane Elementary School, 1953; South Orangetown Middle School, 1966; and, Tappan Zee High School, 1959.

Has the District’s multi-year Master Capital Plan provided for energy efficiency to reduce costs and environmental impact?

The District is currently implementing strategies to work on energy savings, as follows:.

Step 1: Benchmarking energy usage for efficiency in all buildings (in progress)

Step 2: Energy use reduction strategies, such as scheduling, student-led energy conservation programs, recycling programs and demand response (in progress)

Step 3: The District has begun exploring solar power options.

Energy and cost efficiency will be further enhanced through the voter-approved 2022 Capital Improvements Bond through HVAC and control systems and lighting upgrades in our schools:

  • Usage reduction:  Reducing the amount of energy through more efficient LED lighting and HVAC units
  • Efficient controls: Improved sensors and scheduling functionality will enable systems to run only when needed, extending equipment life and reducing maintenance costs
  • Eliminate simultaneous heating and cooling: This will be achieved by using a single system to heat and cool spaces
  • Fresh air: Proper use of filtered, fresh air will increase indoor air quality while reducing energy consumption.
  • Building management system: Enables systems to be scheduled from anywhere and will increase troubleshooting capabilities for maintenance staff, facilitating more accurate and faster response.

Once the proposed project construction is completed, the District will consider solar power options for additional energy and cost savings.

As of Fall 2022, the District is in the process of reviewing options to initiate an energy performance contract, which would leverage energy savings in order to renovate more classrooms using the bond funds.


How will the proposed bond project scope be financed?

Thanks to taxpayer support, the District has been able to build its capital reserve fund to significantly offset the cost of major capital work. The total proposed project budget totals $49,932,000; however, roughly one-third of the total proposed project cost will be covered by the use of existing capital reserve funds in the amount of $18,000,000, reducing the total bond amount to $31,932,000.

What is the estimated cost breakdown of the total proposed project budget?

The total 2022 Capital Improvements project budget totals $49,932,000; however, roughly one-third of the total proposed project cost will be covered by the use of existing capital reserve funds in the amount of $18,000,000, reducing the total bond amount to $31,932,000. A building-by-building breakdown of the total project budget is posted under Quick Links and can be found here.

What is the anticipated cost of the proposed bond to taxpayers?

It is estimated that the project will result in an additional 1.61 percent tax levy increase which equates to $128.69 for a home with an assessed value of $200,000. Homeowners may calculate their own estimated impact of the proposed bond by:

  • Step 1. Finding the assessed value of their home on their most recent tax bill
  • Step 2. Dividing the assessed value of their home by 1,000
  • Step 3. Multiplying the result by 0.6435

What is a school bond?

School districts obtain financing for capital project improvements through the issuance of bonds, much like homeowners obtain a home equity loan to make home repairs. The difference is that school districts must receive voter approval for the scope of work and for the issuance of a bond to pay for the work. Once approved, the district works with a certified fiscal advisor to obtain bids from financial institutions for low interest, tax exempt bonds. The bonds are sold to investors and the district uses the money to pay for the capital project improvements. Typically the bond is issued over a 15-year period and the district is responsible for paying back both the interest and principal. This is a low cost way to “borrow” money. New York State and the State Education department regulates the laws and regulations associated with this process.

What is a capital reserve fund?

Voters approve the creation of capital reserve funds, which must be used by a school district within a certain time period for capital work. School districts use these savings to reduce the tax impact of needed major capital projects on their communities and decrease interest and other costs for the bond issuance.

Now that voters approved the use of $18M from the capital reserve fund to support the Capital Improvements Bond, how will the capital reserve fund be replenished?

Following voter approval of the Capital Improvements Bond in March 2022, $1.4M remained in the original capital reserve fund.

The District received voter approval in May 2022 to create a new capital reserve fund to replenish these savings over the next several years by being fiscally prudent and saving as much as possible from the annual general budget.

The anticipated total capital reserve at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year was $5.277M.