Why I’m Voting “YES” for the Capital Bond Proposal and Ask You to Join Me
By Niamh Alexander
It is a privilege to live in this community. We hope to educate and raise our children here. We invest for their future, for the community’s future and I hope the community is investing in its future too. The criticism of this bond proposal that’s dominated our local paper suggests that the vast majority of this Capital Bond is for ‘nice to have’ frivolous items. That is simply not true. This capital investment is for facilities such as security, ventilation and clean air, sealing and securing aging buildings, eliminating the trailers, and bringing some town pride back into our sports and performing arts facilities. Our District and Board of Education have already gone back to the drawing board multiple times to discuss and lower the amount being requested; $79.9 million is the reduced amount.
<Investing in the Security, Safety, and Health of Our Students>
The Sandy Hook School horror changed my world as a parent of young school children in America. How can we not have the security required of today’s standards after that tragic event occurred just next door? Rye schools still don’t have the secure double entrances recommended. How can we not want clean air and adequate ventilation systems for our children? How can we not want to eliminate the trailers our children learn in and run to and from in freezing and boiling temperatures between classes? Why is it not important to have a performing arts center or safe sports facility that we can be proud? Why shouldn’t we want turf that is safe and accessible after storms, or a gym that can be used on hot days? Safe, comfortable air and space constitute the vast majority of this bond spend. Similarly, I don’t consider it superfluous to allocate capital to the crucial Special Education facilities or engineering and collaborative learning spaces that will bring our children’s learning space into this century. Once the experience of learning is transformed, results will surely follow.
<Duration of Funding Matches Long-Term Capital Investment>
We invest in our own homes, because we know that failing to do so will speed up deterioration and drive up repair costs thereby hurting overall home value. Similarly, we must invest in our schools, in the facilities operating with ‘band-aids’ well beyond their useful lives. We should use long-term funding for these long-term capital items. Most of us have mortgages – a long-term source of funding, a typical mortgage duration is 30 years and that debt includes buying the fixtures and fittings within the building, not just a shell. These may not last that full 30 years, but we don’t get separate financing terms for the fixtures. There’s no other way to fund this capital spend, our operating budget is for operating the schools on an annual basis. It pays staff and maintains facilities but every building needs investment at times.
<Delaying the Investment Will Only Cost Us More>
I disagree that it’s a good idea to go back to the drawing board or to do the suggested ‘let’s discuss this some more’ as proposed in various Rye Record letters and reader’s forums. This is an effort to delay and detract from the importance of this investment making it a ‘failed’ bond raise and make it even more challenging to get your time and attention next time.
The School District staff and Board of Education already lowered the amount proposed for all projects envisioned initially from over $140 million to the current $79.9 million proposal.
<We Can’t Control the Property Cycle, but We Cannot Delay Investment>
There’s never a good time to ask Rye residents to pay more taxes but our schools and our future deserves this investment. There have been some declines in the market values of properties – not all double-digit declines as proposed by some detractors of this bond. The property market has historically run in cycles and just as we’re turning down for a bit, it will recover if history is a guide.
In Rye’s property market, a lot of new buyers are young families moving to town to raise their children. These children will attend our schools. The cycle of empty nesters and baby-boomers downsizing is primarily supported by young families buying their homes. Let’s remember that as these buyers tour our homes, they will also tour our schools and see the trailers attached, airless gyms, aged AC units and rancid air our children breathe, inadequate special education facilities, flooded sports facilities, dated teaching spaces, and tired auditorium.
Please come out and vote “YES” March 12th, and let’s have our children take pride in the facilities in which they learn. It takes a village.