Editorial: Support the school bond proposals

It’s a difficult economic time to ask taxpayers for more money. But that’s what Greenport Board of Education members are forced to do this month to support critical repairs to the 1932 school building.

They didn’t hide the fact that a bond issue was looming last May when they presented their $13.8 million budget. What they did do was keep their spending increase to a bare .11 percent — and they promise to do the same when they budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The district’s auditors commented that Greenport is operating on a budget tighter than that of any other district they’ve reviewed.

Anyone who has seen pictures of the damage the building has sustained from severe leaks, or watched video of rainwater running through light fixtures outside the school cafeteria, knows the money isn’t being spent on frills.

Students and teachers shouldn’t have to cover classroom materials with plastic bags and make funnels out of paper towels to run rainwater from leaking windows into pans on ledges. Kiddie swimming pools in the small gym shouldn’t be needed to collect rainwater. And boilers that are more than 38 years old and have outlived their usefulness are falling apart.

Proposition A calls for bonding $7.485 million for basic repairs. Its rejection by voters would threaten the long-term viability of the stately building. Board members would be forced to try again with new bond initiatives.

Interest rates and construction costs are low now. Delays would see increases in both, so if taxpayers say no to this bond they would face a heavier burden in the future.

Proposition B would provide another $1.27 million for a 50 kilowatt solar system and a 250 kilowatt wind-powered two-blade turbine. These green energy initiatives would save the school district money over time — and with the cost of traditional energy sources increasing, this is a perfect opportunity to spend a little to save a lot.

The two bonds would cost the average homeowner about $230 a year. Admittedly, that’s not chicken feed for a community with many impoverished residents struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent.

But it’s a lot less than it would cost for a new and not-so-stately building.

Sound fiscal management has left the Greenport School District carrying no other long-term debt. The responsible thing on Dec. 7 is to vote “yes” on both bonds.

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