The Rye City School District Board of Education plans to adopt a bond resolution to address enrollment and space issues at the High/Middle School campus October 11.
By Jim Byrne
The Rye City School District Board of Education plans to adopt a bond resolution to address enrollment and space issues at the High/Middle School campus October 11. Consensus seemed to be reached October 4 to move forward on a bond of $19.889 million that would finance a new, standalone 12-classroom science addition, as well as the conversion of existing science rooms into general education space, and locker room renovations.
What the Board must determine between now and Tuesday evening is whether or not to include additional pieces from the master plan, such as upgrades to art, technology, TV, and performing arts spaces, renovations to the upper field, the removal/rebuilding of the field house, and A/C installation. A multi-levered approach to the December bond vote is an option for approval on those additional items, which would bring the total north of $26 million.
Board members expressed concern about the overall cost, and repeated time and again that if the public approves the bond, future budget votes must have support as well. With ever-rising pension costs, budget estimates show that – if no cuts are made to the program – tax rate increases will necessitate the public to override the 2% tax cap with 60% in favor. Although a clearer financial forecast is expected at the next meeting, tax rate increases over the next five years could range between 3.75 and 5.5%, depending on the sustainability of using fund balance to offset increases. And that’s before adding in the debt impact, which would be felt in earnest by 2013-14, and projected to be in the 2% range for a bond close to $20 million.
There was support from the 100-plus on hand, many of whom toured the campus earlier in the evening to see older portions of the interior. Comments were made about “shockingly dilapidated classrooms”, overcrowding, and the need to give teachers the tools for a 21st-century curriculum. A report by Dr. Paul Seversky in June showed RHS/RMS to already be overcapacity, with enrollment booming in the elementary schools and on its way to the big campus.
The public was able to sit down in small groups with Board members at the start of the meeting, and the trustees reported back that many supported, in the words of Board member Kendall Egan, “going all in” on the bond.
“I remain very concerned about the bond and budget vote, but if the parents here tonight are reflective of the community, it should be a blowout, and that will say something to the Board as we try to gauge public sentiment,” said Mr. Fox. “People need to put their money where mouth is, or – more appropriately – where their vote is. It’s that or we’ll have a new building but won’t be able to afford the program in it, and the consequence would be devastating.”
For the average home assessed at $26,800, the tax increase resulting from the 2013-14 budget is roughly $545. With a bond approved in the $20 million range, an extra $300 would be added to the bill. An “all-in” bond would tack on another $100.
The City of Rye is also gearing up for a bond, with a number of critical capital projects on its own list.
More information on the bond is available at ryeschools.org.