In Response to Terra Incognita Commentary
By Jim Culyer
As a 35-year Rye resident and former president of the Rye City School District Board of Education and grandparent of children in the schools, I wanted to respond to the Commentary article in the December 21 issue of The Rye Record.
A question I think we all need to keep in mind when we consider the School District’s proposed capital bond is: “Why did we choose to live in a City like Rye?” My answer is simple: family, work, location, and recreation opportunities a small community has to offer; but, most importantly, the education of our children. The District, a highly rated school district locally, statewide and nationally, gives our children the best opportunities possible.
Circumstances beyond the control of the District have put it, as well as most school districts, local municipalities, and county governments, in a very difficult financial position. Prior to the recession of 2008, most public sector entities were able to manage facilities needs, infrastructure needs, and, in the case of school districts, curricular changes, through their operating budgets or through specific long-term borrowing. But 2008 brought a new mentality to addressing these types of needs: “Don’t spend the money now, we’ll issue a bond in the future to address our facilities/infrastructure needs.”
In 2012, our friends in Albany decided to place a 2% tax cap on public sector entities’ budgets as a way to lessen the “high tax burden” that individuals were feeling in NYS. This only made it harder for local school districts and municipalities to fund facility/infrastructure needs through their operating budgets, making bonding the most pragmatic way to fund big facilities’ repairs.
Now to the $80 million school bond. For over ten years, our Board of Education and Administration have managed to continue to provide our children with a quality education, while addressing specific curriculum needs (e.g., via the new Science Wing at the High School) as well as immediate facility needs (e.g., the new boiler at Osborn School). It is now time to address the other needs (Facility/Infrastructure/Curriculum) that were all put on hold in expectation of a time when a bond would be needed. That time is now.
Specifically, the School District must:
- Address much-needed HVAC repairs/upgrades and add secure entrances at all schools.
- Replace worn-out, end-of-life “portable” trailer-style classrooms at Midland and Osborn Elementary schools.
- Replace the turf field — used by the whole community — at the High School and install a tarp to protect it from flooding by Blind Brook.
- Create a STEM environment at the High School, replacing outdated wood shop, metal shop, etc.
- Redesign the libraries to reflect current curriculum needs.
These are but a few of the items on the list of many critical repairs and upgrades that must be supported by the community in order to continue to have the high-quality education we all desire for our children/grandchildren.
Yes, this is unexplored territory, but it is a major investment in our children, and also in the values of our homes and our community, and we will all benefit from a successful bond passage in March.