Sunday, June 9, 2019

Putting aside the financial and property value implications for a moment, I think it is important that we also consider the messages we are sending to our children and the teachers with this bond. When we allow buildings to decay, unsafe areas to develop, and educational spaces to insufficiently support our children and teachers, we are essentially telling them we don’t value education as the bedrock of our community. In giving teachers safe, clean and effective workspaces, we are esteeming their dedication to and focus on our children. In providing our children a safe, clean and adaptable environment to learn and play, we are imparting to them the significance of education. I will be voting "Yes" because I hope that as a community, we can agree on this- sending positive messaging to our children and teachers is something we cannot afford to fall short on.    

Katelin Berkowitz 

From a former Rye school board president: “The proposed bond is responsible and efficient”

A lot of people have asked my opinion on the proposed school bond. Here it is: We need to come together as a community, as we’ve done so many times in the past, and support our school system by voting YES, YES, YES on Tuesday.

As taxpayers in Rye we have created one of the best school systems in the nation. Every school day terrific faculty, staff, and administrators, teaching at our four school campuses, meet the diverse learning needs of Rye children in academics, athletics and arts. Partnering with parents, businesses, and nonprofits in the Rye community, our schools ensure that Rye graduates leave well prepared to succeed in college and in life. This is our longstanding tradition in Rye. We support it as Rye taxpayers because education is among our most cherished values.

Now our school campuses need significant work in order to continue to support the phenomenal program we, as a community, have built. And our district professionals and trustees have put forth a responsible and efficient bond to address those needs. The naysayers in our community criticize the bond by offering up flawed and defective logic.

“Why not just do what is absolutely necessary, or even half?” This is a false flag. Schools face the same infrastructure needs that exist throughout our country. There are pressing infrastructure and security needs at each building. And just as importantly, good education is not static. We need to have facilities that support the program that will educate the next generation of Rye graduates to be successful and competitive in this century. Merely patching up buildings that were designed in the 1930s and 50s will quickly leave our children behind. Delaying part or all of the work will set us even further behind, result in parts of some facilities being closed, and ultimately cost us much more.

As taxpayers we should come together and protect the leading educational system we’ve built for Rye children. Please join me in voting YES, YES, YES this Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Josh Nathan
Former Rye School Board President, Trustee 2003-2012
June 9, 2019

Straight talk on the bond


Straight talk on the bond: Why Everyone should vote YES-YES-YES

Three simple reasons to vote YES on June 11th.

1)     It’s the right thing to do for our schools.
2)     It will result in LESS taxes (you read that right, voting for an $80M bond will cost you LESS in taxes – see below).
3)     Property values.

#1 - Passing this bond is the right thing to do.  The vast bulk is desperately needed infrastructure and repair.  Things this town has been negligent in neglecting.  The much smaller education amount is for areas where infrastructure work will be done anyway and modernizes outdated classrooms.  Don’t open up the walls and put back a 1960s classroom.  Vote YES-YES-YES.

For those who ask: “can’t we do a smaller bond?”  No.  This is the smaller bond.  Professional recommendations were for a much larger bond.  There’s no fat.  It addresses immediate needs.  Your School Board and Administration did their job and presented a conservative option.  Now is the time to support them.

#2 - Yes = Less Taxes.  Ok, you’re probably thinking: “This guy’s telling me an $80M Bond will mean less taxes.  Is he crazy?”  Nope.  Not crazy. 

First, a bond efficiently allocates funds across projects to achieve efficiencies of scale.  Piecemealing is more expensive.  And the work will happen.  Eventually.  Things are breaking.  The field will be shut down without this bond.  If the Osborn boiler from a couple years ago had broken during cold weather, rather than warm, elementary students would have been relocated (that would have cost a pretty penny).  Emergency fixes are expensive and disruptive.  Planned fixes are responsible and prudent.

Second, most of the funds are already allocated in annual budgets.  This year’s budget has nearly $4M for debt service.  The spread of the bond over the next 31 years, layered in with expiring debt, doesn’t increase that line item that much.  Go to the tax calculator on the district’s website to figure out the net annual impact on your taxes.  For a $1.75M home, it’s less than $200 a year. 

If you’re thinking, “wait, if old debt’s expiring, won’t I get money back if I vote no?”  Nope.  Budgeting doesn’t work that way, especially with current State laws.  That $4M will stay in future budgets, somewhere.  A School Board — any School Board — would be irresponsible if it did it any differently. 

You are voting for a modest annual increase rather than suffering more expensive piecemeal chunks over the next couple decades.  Bottom line, if your priority is low taxes vote YES-YES-YES.  You’ll pay more in the long run if you don’t.

#3 - Property Values.  This is simple.  Rye’s property values depend on the ELITE reputation of its schools.  Not the good reputation.  Not the good enough reputation.  The elite reputation.  If you think that twice voting this Bond down — when Scarsdale, Bronxville, Harrison, Port Chester, New Rochelle and many others have supported their schools with YES’s the last few years — won’t drop property values, you are deluding yourself.  Even better, studies consistently show that passing school bonds increase property values more than the costs of the bond itself.  Google it.  There’s a great one from Princeton.  Then vote YES-YES-YES and invest in yourself and your town.

Finally, for those who suggest the “responsible” thing to do is vote “NO” to force a smaller bond, well, excuse my French, but that is unadulterated bulls**t.
-- Is it responsible to ignore the crumbling state of our school interiors?  No.
-- Is it responsible to ask our students to learn in rooms built for 1950s style educating?  No.
-- Is it responsible for the “NO” vote to largely not bother to appear at the public discussion meetings?  No.
-- Is it responsible for the “NO” vote to inflate the numbers and ignore that the actual annual tax increases arising from the bond are relatively small?  No.

Those who propose that the “needed” maintenance work is only around $30M are doing the math wrong and they know it.  I’ve studied the budget proposals in detail, for line items like “HS Lab & Connector” and other things that “sound” less dire than “asbestos” most of that work is required infrastructure and only a fraction of it is to actually improve the educational experience.  If you wanted to just “fix the problems” and ignore education, the bond would still be in the $60-70M range.  It would be irresponsible to not responsibly finish the job.

Vote YES-YES-YES on June 11th.  It’s the right thing to do for the children of Rye and for your pocketbook.

Tom Stein

Dear Editor,

I am an empty nester.  My last child graduated from Rye High School in 2018.  Like most other parents in Rye, we worried, cajoled, scrimped, and invested to give the best we could for our kids and their education.  We made sure our children understood that a good education is an opportunity that should never be squandered.

On June 11, all four of the voting members of the Jensen family will vote yes on the School Bond and we will do so in all three parts.  Many of my neighbors argue that a 30-year, 79-million dollar bond is not a good idea from a budget perspective.  Using a fairly narrow lens, they look at their property taxes and are more than happy to be convinced by loud voices to vote no.

Investing in our schools and the future of our community should never just be about fiscal conservatives focused primarily with budget issues.  It also shouldn’t be about fiscal liberals borrowing too much money and not spending it wisely.  It should be about a community coming together and voting on wise investments that will produce good social and economic returns over the long term.

For our family, the Rye City Schools have always been, and continue to be, an excellent investment.  The success of our students and the growth and resilience of our property values are a testament to that fact.  With respect to this bond, we have debated as a community and the school board has made adjustments based on that input.  Now it is time to take care of our aging infrastructure, replace our athletic field and update the performing arts center and many of our classrooms.  As a proud parent of former Garnet graduates, I want our public schools to reflect the best of teaching with learning spaces that encourage the competencies necessary for a rapidly changing labor market. 

We are lucky to live in Rye where the community has the wisdom and wherewithal to make smart, sustainable investments in the future.  Now we just need to show up and say yes.

Sincerely,

Jamie Jensen
I’m writing to express my support for the Rye City School District Bond vote on June 11. 

We moved to New York in 2013, choosing Rye over other communities because of the excellence and high ranking of the school district.  My two children have since graduated from RHS and moved on to college.  For me, voting to pass the bond is an investment in my property values and the future students of Rye City Schools. 

Classrooms designed for wood shop in the 1950’s and 60-year-old heating systems need to be replaced.  Secure entrances at all schools are an investment our kids deserve.  Crumbling walls and ceilings only get worse with time and more expensive to repair. 

Our neighbors in Port Chester, Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, and New Rochelle have all passed school bonds in the last 3 years.  Let’s join them in supporting our kids, their education, and our property values.  On June 11, I’ll be voting YES on propositions 1, 2, & 3. 

Amy Habeck
Three Reasons to Vote "Yes" 3 Times on June 11

When our family made the decision to leave the City we looked for over two years in six different areas before deciding to buy in Rye. Our number one consideration was quality schools. When we moved our kids were in preschool, so there was an extended period of time before we set foot in our local elementary school, Midland. When we entered Midland for the first time we were startled at the terrible condition of the facilities, especially the lack of security. We supported the March bond vote because it provided what we thought was a long-overdue project that would result in adequate facilities, not world-class, just reasonably acceptable.

When the bond failed to pass It was extremely disappointing, primarily because the outcome did not seem to reflect the true will of the Rye community as a whole. In particular, there seemed to be a general lack of accurate information and also many misconceptions about the proposed plan.  I have spent the last two months studying the school board’s bond proposal, and have attempted to look at it from the various perspectives of Rye residents. In believe there are three different reasons why people should vote “Yes"​ 3 Times for the school bond on June 11:

1. Vote “Yes” for your Wallet. Your taxes will barely go up - the annual increase on a $1.5 million home is $169. That's less than the tax impact of the overwhelmingly-supported budget vote in May.  We’re making an $80 million infrastructure investment which is supporting $9 BILLION of real estate value. That is an incredibly small investment supporting our home values - it would be extremely short-sighted to arbitrarily cut this investment in half. 

2. Vote “Yes” with your Head.  Buildings cost money, especially in Westchester County. ​To replace Midland ​alone would ​cost $50-70 million . We’re not getting shiny new schools, we’re getting renovated old ones - the school board's plan is a reasonable, cost-friendly approach. 

3. Vote “Yes” with your Heart. The bond is a long-term investment in the future of children: your children and grandchildren, as well as those of your neighbors and future neighbors (the people who will someday buy your home.) 

Please join me in voting "Yes" ​3 Times on June 11!

Tim Schott
The so called "Friends of a Better Bond" are working hard to vote down the upcoming School Bond Proposal.  They have written in multiple mailers and in letters to the editor of this newspaper that the School Board hasn’t heard them and that their voice is being ignored.  I am wondering why this group is hiding behind faceless mailers and one sided letters instead of attending and engaging at the numerous community meetings the School Board and Superintendent held in order to get feedback from ALL members of the community?  I attended the 3 public School Board meetings that were held after the original March 12th vote and listened to numerous bond supporters speak at the podium.   Only one person who spoke publicly at the podium during these meetings was against the bond.  He spoke determinedly and his voice was heard by the community.   I may not agree with him, but I appreciated the information he presented and the critical thinking that the school board had to do to respond to his questions.  To the best of my knowledge this gentleman isn’t associated with the “friends” organization that is trying to derail the new bond.  If the “friends” group is truly concerned with its voice being heard and its views being incorporated, why didn’t the members of this group speak at these community engagement focused meetings?  These open forums were the exact stage where one should be voicing his or her concerns - not via biased mailers.   The “friends”’group didn’t come to the collective bargaining table, and now are spending thousands of dollars mailing postcards that say their voices weren’t heard.  Their tactics seem highly disingenuous to me. 

I’m a new resident to Rye.  My husband and I moved here almost a year ago with our 4 young children from New York City.  I moved to Rye versus numerous other West Chester and Greenwich suburbs based on the reputation of the public school district.  I toured what would become my children’s current elementary school and was underwhelmed by the physical facilities, but the residents I spoke to had such school pride and faith in the school system that I got over my concerns.  My kids started school in the Fall and indoor recess irked me.  A tour of the mobile trailers irked me- not only are they outdated, smelly, moldy and in need of repair, but in today’s world where school shootings are a sickening reality they are flat out unsafe.  Learning that the school field used by our 1,800+ middle and high school students during school hours and hundreds to thousands of other young community members floods with regularity and is approaching the end of its usable life irked me.  Seeing the outdated High School shop room that looked like the one I was in 30 years ago now being called a “technology classroom” really irked me.  Diving into the content of the original bond proposal and learning that our schools have windows from the 1930s and HVAC systems from the 1960s, classrooms and bathrooms that aren’t up to code and aren’t handicap accessible irked me.  The lack of safe, secure entryways does more than irk me - it terrifies me.  These all are the critical, real problems that the proposed bond aims to address. 

“Friends” - the time for your voice to be heard passed when you declined to come to the public forums created precisely for gathering community feedback.  Please stop mailing our community misconstrued facts and lies.  Without a solid public school district with repaired facilities and modernized learning environments our community’s children will suffer, and along with it so will ALL of our real estate values.

Regards,

Amanda Timchak
Dear Editor

My husband and I would like to write in support of the school bond. We are two working parents who deeply value public education. I was raised in Paris, France, a country with a history of investing in public education, and my husband, Professor and Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University School of Architecture, benefited from a stellar public school education in Barrington Heights, a suburb of Chicago, IL.

I have reviewed the bond proposal in details, and I have spent time in all three elementary schools with my children. In addition, I have visited and compared Rye Middle and High Schools with other schools, including Larchmont and Harrison High Schools. In my opinion, and comparing our infrastructures with those of nearby communities – who passed their bond proposals successfully, the proposed expenditures are absolutely justified and represent a bare minimum to maintain our existing infrastructures and current school programs.

At a time where government funding for public education is decreasing, it is critical that, as a community, regardless of whether we have children in the school system, we rise to provide the necessary resources that allow all our children to study in a safe environment and to reach their full potential as learners.

I should add for the voters who don’t have children in the school system, that, beyond the quality of Rye children’s education, what is at stake is the real estate value of their properties. Rye is a beautiful community in its own rights, but we must all be pragmatic and realize that school quality has a strong influence on neighborhood home values, as demonstrated by countless peer-reviewed studies on the subject. Without strong home values, our town would be deprived of valuable tax dollars to maintain its infrastructures and keep all of its residents safe. Therefore, it is in Rye City residents’ best interests to vote this bond proposal.

All the best,

Laurence Lafforgue and Jorge Otero-Pailos

Rye Residents
As a graduate of Rye High School and parent to two Rye students, I am disappointed with the resistance being leveled against the vision for a next generation school system to serve the students of Rye. The focus by the detractors has been on what is “necessary” for our facilities to adequately service our students and community. There is little disagreement that adequate HVAC systems, facilities that meet code, and fixes to crumbling infrastructure are required (incidentally, this represents a large percentage of the monies requested).

Much of the opposition has focused on what some consider to be “nice to have” elements of the bond. These include upgrades to the school theaters, permanent structures to replace aging trailers, upgraded fields, improved libraries and science/engineering optimized classrooms. Our high school was built in 1931, 4 years after the invention of the television. It strikes me as profoundly absurd we would consider a facility approaching 90 years of age to continue satisfactorily serving students who will be seeking jobs that didn’t exist 5 years ago, much less 90. Furthermore, it is simply smart business to accomplish as much as possible, with a view toward the future, while the walls are open and the contractors are in. If we do not take this opportunity to comprehensively upgrade our learning environments, we have missed a major opportunity.

Our School Board and Superintendent have put a tremendous amount of thought into not only fixing required elements of our school infrastructure but building a vision for what our school should be in the upcoming decades. The realization of this vision will underpin a competitive and modern learning environment, not simply one this is adequate to meet the bare minimum requirements of a school system.

I encourage all of you to support our students and our community by voting Yes to all 3 propositions on June 11. If you are concerned about the tax impact, spend 3 minutes to calculate your potential taxes on the school site – I can almost guarantee it will be lower than you think. If you believe that upgrading our 90 year old structures to support 21st century needs is unnecessary, I implore that you rethink your position. If you do not have children, have kids who have graduated or have children who attend schools outside our school system, consider that in the long run, emergency repairs will likely cost us more than what is being proposed and that eventually, we will compromise our reputation as a top school district impacting our property values and the quality of our neighborhoods and community.

Yours truly,

Onur Tuncer

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Dino Garr On The Rye School Bond: How Good Do You Want To Be?


I have been reflecting on the many letters to the editor and conversations among Rye residents expressing their thoughts, opinions and reasons for voting either “Yes” or “No” on the School Bond. It is a challenge we all must accept as Rye Garnets. Having been a Rye resident, student, teacher and coach for 67 years, I’d like to take a moment and share my thoughts with the community and town I love.

In my roles as an educator and coach for over 40 years, I have had many opportunities to visit other communities throughout Westchester and Rockland counties and to see the investments made by those communities for the benefit of current students and future generations of leaders. I can say without reservation that, in comparison to other communities, Rye’s commitment to the value and importance of education has been on a slow and steady decline. Most of us have probably heard the saying, “Keep ‘Rye’ Rye.” What does this really mean? Throughout my teaching and coaching careers, I have always maintained and known that if you are content with staying in the same spot and not moving forward, others will pass you by. Neighboring school districts are passing Rye by – in the classroom, buildings and athletic fields.

The Bond vote represents a philosophical position that every Rye resident has to take, just as it did when my mother chose to buy a home in Rye in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. As an Italian immigrant, she worked and saved for many years to be able to make that choice. Until her death fifty years later, she paid her school and property taxes as part of her belief in the choice she made and in the value of the Rye community. And trust me, with her Depression-era mentality, my mother had a keen sense of saving and being frugal – a trait she passed on to me.

The School Bond vote is a time for action – making a choice on what and how we will invest to insure that current and future educational needs are not only met but that the high standards we had always been known for are upheld and not diminished. It is also a time for taking a philosophical position as to our belief in the value and importance of education in our community. I cannot ever remember any parent or community member saying they want average or less for their sons and daughters when it comes to learning, opportunities and life experiences. No resident wants less than the best service. That’s why we choose to live in Rye. We should always strive to be the model for other communities to emulate. That is what is meant by the saying, “Keep ‘Rye’ Rye.” Something I have always taken “Garnet Pride” in believing, both in my actions and in voting, is that we should always strive to be the best. For me, voting “Yes” is an expression of that belief – a vote to be the best, now and in the future. I do not know any more valuable way to insure success, not only for our students but for our home values and growth. Just as my mother did back in the 1930s, I am choosing to invest in Rye. Now, it is my turn to carry on her belief in the Rye community.

Finally, we elect board members and administrators to provide informed guidance on what is the right fiscal policy – to make important decisions on what is the best way to provide for the continued growth of our schools. “Striving for Perfection,” “Focusing on Excellence” – these are what Rye residents demand from the Board of Education, administrators, teachers, coaches and students. Shouldn’t we demand the same from ourselves? “Yes” – we are all Garnets.

Dino Garr

Friday, June 7, 2019

WHY IS IT BEST TO BOND FOR ALL PROJECTS NOW?

The work as proposed is impossible to do through a series of smaller bonds. When doing home renovations you open walls once and do all the work that is needed the first time you open the wall. You don’t open the wall fix the electrical issues, close the wall up and then a few years later open the wall back up and fix the plumbing only to close the walls back up again.
Doing the work sooner, rather than later, results in cost savings because construction inflation grows much faster than the inflation of the overall economy. Historically, construction is 2x the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and in the last five years it has been 3x CPI. Additionally, a single bond will benefit from economies of scale, making the cost lower than if it were broken up into many smaller bonds.
WHAT IS THE RCSD DISTRICT’S CURRENT DEBT LEVEL?

State Weighted Average Debt Level as a % of expenses: 6.92% 

District’s current debt as a % of expenses: 4.93% 

District’s debt as a % of expenses at max borrowing level of bond: 6.26%

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Letter to the editor

Whether or not we have children in public schools or think the bond is good or bad - our property values are inextricably linked to perception and support of our schools.

According to Sotheby's, this Spring 30% of real estate transactions in Rye involved purchasers from NYC. The majority of these buyers are young families seeking to balance their desires for great schools, satisfactory commutes, sense of community, and budgets. They chose Rye from a total of approximately twenty suburban communities in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut which have school rankings in the top 200, according to US News & World Report. While each town certainly has it's advantages and considerations, schools certainly matter.

This buyer base is a critical component in the local real estate market, but is mobile.  If their desire for quality education- which includes the comparative quality of instructions as well as facilities- is not met, they will choose to go elsewhere.  Some point to the recent flat line enrollment trend as a sign the bonds are not needed...what if families are already thinking twice before moving here?

The impact of removing SALT deductions has burdened us all and makes it a difficult time to ask the community for even an modest increase in taxes. That being said, it is important to remember that our effective tax millage rates are actually less than surrounding communities, even once layering on the full impact of both proposed bonds.

We should be doing everything possible to encourage new families to continue to flock to our community. Before the next vote, I urge you to consider the long term impact to the community of not enthusiastically supporting both upcoming ballot measures. Your property value may very well depend on it.

-Stacy Bittel