By Janice Llanes Fabry
The Board of Education of the Rye Neck Union Free School District voted unanimously on December 20 to seek community approval for a combined $27.6 million bond. Voting on the bond proposal will take place February 13 at the Rye Neck High School Community Room.
Rye Neck voters will be asked to vote on two independent propositions, each of which requires a majority vote to pass. The first seeks $6.28 million to replace flat roofs at the district’s three school facilities, all of which are over 23 years old and have become a major drain on the annual operating budget.
The second proposition seeks $21.33 million for two major capital projects to expand the Middle/High school campus. A Collaborative Science Center that will put Rye Neck on the leading edge of STEAM education will be housed in a new wing with eight classrooms and lab spaces. The now outdated science classrooms, that were designed in 1997, will be converted back to general-use classrooms.
The full potential of the Collaborative Science Center can only be realized with the addition of a new middle school gym that would eliminate the chronic scheduling bottlenecks caused by increased middle and high school program requirements and enrollments. The new gym will also alleviate overcrowded PE classes and will be able to accommodate modified sports currently forced to hold practices at the elementary school gyms.
For Rye City residents who live in the Rye Neck School District (Greenhaven, The Preserve), the average annual tax increase will be $677 — $169 for Prop. 1 and $508 for Prop. 2. That estimate is based on homes valued at $2.1 million. After five years, the annual taxpayer cost will be reduced somewhat because of the retirement of old debt.
“After extensive research on the condition of all our school facilities and careful consideration of the needs of our students and the entire community,” said School Board President Patty Nashelsky, “the Board has decided that urgent roof replacements and critically important improvements to our Middle/High School campus are the highest immediate priorities for Rye Neck.”
A general consensus was reached after more than a yearlong analysis that included focus groups, a district-wide survey, and a Facilities Advisory Committee which included a cross-section of parents, community members, and construction and design experts.
“The Board spent considerable time listening to the community, and at the same time being sensitive to the economic climate,” noted Superintendent Barbara Ferraro. “At the end of the day, the Board accepted the majority of the committee’s recommendations, but needed to make some difficult compromises and scaled back the project. We’re pushing the pause button on the elementary schools’ expansion at this time, however, the Board saw the need to move forward with the district-wide roof improvements and the academic enhancements to the Middle/High School campus.”
A $35.5 million proposal in October 2016 was narrowly defeated by 17 votes. In addition to the Middle/High School capital improvements, it included expansions at F.E. Bellows and Daniel Warren elementary schools.
Focus groups have since determined the 2016 bond was somewhat confusing. “This time, we’ve made a concerted effort to be clearer about the District’s capital improvement needs,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kimberly Bucci. “For the Board, it has been a 14-month long listening tour.
The last public hearing on the bond proposal will be held at the school February 7 at 7 p.m. The polls will be open February 13 from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
For additional information and a full list of frequently asked questions, visit www.ryeneck.org.