Greenporters approve school bonds

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Greenport School District Superintendent Michael Comanda after Tuesday's bond vote

Greenport School District taxpayers overwhelmingly approved two bond proposals totaling $8.75 million to fund repairs and improvements at the school building.

“This community, when they get behind something, there’s no stopping them,” said jubilant Superintendent Michael Comanda. He had nervously paced the hallways awaiting the results and, once the numbers were being read by district clerk Diana Duell, he admitted he was too nervous to try to total them. But it was quickly evident that both bonds had received overwhelming support.

Proposition A, which will raise $7.485 million to replace the school’s original roof and to upgrade insulation, among other improvements, was approved 371-55. That money will also be used to install new rooftop HVAC units to replace units that no longer work; purchase a new boiler to replace a 38-year-old unit that has outlasted its expected lifespan; and replace original windows with energy-efficient insulated glass.

Proposition B, approved 332-90, calls for spending $1.27 million to install a 50 kilowatt solar system on part of the school’s roof and a 250 kilowatt wind-powered two-blade turbine that would be built on the northwestern edge of the school’s ball field.

The vote tallies include all 69 absentee ballots that were cast.

“I’m just so grateful for the overwhelming support of the community,” said board president Tina Volinski. She noted that the turnout for the bonds was higher than the vote in May for the district’s budget. That passed 336-79, for a total of 415 ballots, while 426 voters cast ballots on Proposition A and 422 on Proposition B.

Greenport Board of Education members, who had originally proposed a single bond, opted in October to split it into two propositions to increase the chances at least one would pass.
An average Greenport property owner would be assessed $197.98 per year to pay for the main bond and $31.89 per year for the green energy bond, according to Mr. Comanda. The life of the bonds is 20 years and the district has no other outstanding long-term debt, he has said. The district will receive state funding of 10 percent of the cost of both propositions.
Work will begin on the projects as quickly as possible, Mr. Comanda said. It’s too early to provide a definite time frame but it’s expected to take about a year, with the green energy components expected to be the last step, he added.

Mr. Comanda led an aggressive campaign to sell the bond issues, holding multiple meetings at the school to explain the extent of the deterioration and he also made a presentation at a televised Greenport Village Board meeting and at Peconic Landing, Greenport’s life-care community.

While he said the reception was positive everywhere he went, he still worried Tuesday night that, in a tight economy, residents might hesitate to vote for bonds they knew would raise their taxes.

But throughout his presentations, Mr. Comanda continually stressed that the repairs were “critical” and not cosmetic. He showed pictures of serious rainwater leaks through windows and ceilings, including one of water running through a light fixture outside the school cafeteria. He also showed a picture of a badly deteriorated 38-year-old boiler that had such a gaping hole in it that a person could actually walk through it.

A group of students looking at the pictures that were posted at the entranceway to the school, where voters arrived to cast their ballots, said they were surprised to see how serious the damage was.

Board members, who in May presented to voters what their auditors called the tightest budget they had seen, have pledged to continue being frugal as they prepare their 2011-12 spending plan.

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