The projected at and high schools elicited many comments for and against it at .
But Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz said that if voters do not approve the plan in a January referendum, students and homeowners could pay the price.
The ambitious plan would create separate multipurpose athletic complexes for each high school consisting of artificial turf fields, new eight-lane track ovals, modernized lighting, renovated concession stands and new restroom facilities, sound systems, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant grandstands and more.
The plan appears to be more comprehensive than Mayor James Barberio's previously debated turf plan, the so-called Fields of Dreams. That rejected plan, which called for the BOE to cede control of the high school football fields, included synthetic turf fields, track improvements, lighting and bleachers. The estimated cost of the mayor's plan was $4.5 million that would have been paid for with Open Space Trust Fund monies over 15 years. That figure did not include costs for replacement of the turf carpets, which have an .
At the meeting, resident Hank Heller characterized the planned complexes pushed by the district as "Taj Mahals."
Seitz said the description could not be farther from the truth.
"We are talking about basic things here," he said at the Wednesday meeting, noting that the proposed locker rooms wouldn't even include lockers. "It will be a small room with a cement floor, benches and hook on the walls. ... We did not do anything extravagant."
Similarly, he said bathrooms will be small and will have no more than two or three stalls available for each gender.
The school district's plan is to put the plan before voters via a special January referendum that would cost $30,000.
According to the superintendent, as expensive as the plan may appear to some, the costs could be higher if the work is broken down and done in spurts.
"If [the referendum] goes down, repairs of, say, bleachers will have to come out of the operating budget," Seitz warned. "That means layoffs of teachers, a scaling back of technology. We [work under a] 2 percent hard cap, so [if voters reject the plan], it will impact instruction.
"It's that simple."
He added that the plan is comprised of repairs and renovations that are necessary whether the complexes are approved by voters or not.
"If they aren't funded through the referendum, most of these things still need to be done soon," Seitz said. "That will have an impact on future school budgets."
He pointed to the fact that under law, the 2 percent cap on tax increases does not permit waivers for capital projects.
Additionally, he said, if multiple referendums are needed to get approval for individual projects, that will mean more paid out in election costs. Construction costs would rise as well, he said, due to multiple, smaller projects, possible increases in interest rates and the interconnected nature of some of the individuals jobs involved.
An example of this interconnection, he noted, would be the installation of artificial turf for the football fields. That project determines what happens with the work involving bleachers and drainage systems.
As it stands, the plan is projected to cost approximately $11.5 million, said the superintendent. The tax burden to homeowners would be spread out over 10 years, costing the average taxpayer $54 dollars per year, or a dollar a week.
If voters say no to the district plan, he warned they potentially and unwittingly could be setting themselves up to pay even more over the long run.