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Greenport school voters reject $23.8M capital improvement project

06/26/2019 8:43 PM |

Voters in the Greenport School District rejected a $23.8 million capital improvement bond in what school officials described as a record turnout Wednesday.

A total of 354 residents voted no on the first of two ballot measures, with 331 supporting the bond project. The first proposition needed approval in order for a second measure, calling for the addition of a six-lane track and reconstruction of four exterior tennis courts, to move forward. Officials did not immediately tally the results of the second measure Wednesday.

“We are disappointed with the outcome,” said newly elected school board member Kim Moore Swann. “But we’re not totally dismayed, because the vote was very close, so clearly people understand the need for the bond.”

Superintendent David Gamberg said the district will likely pursue a second bond vote in the fall, proposing a less costly proposition. He said to other school officials who had awaited the results Wednesday that the defeat was so narrow, a second vote would likely result in approval.

“We will show the community that we heard them,” Mr. Gamberg said to supporters. “We will show them that a good number of people supported this, and it’s likely a good number of people who supported this didn’t come out.”

He later said the school board will work with the public to determine “what tipped the scales.”

A ventilation system, an example of some of the outdated or damaged infrastructure that would have been replaced through the bond. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

The number of voters for the bond vote far outpaced the 385 residents who showed up at the polls for the annual school budget vote last month. The slim, 23-vote margin of defeat forced election officials to count the results a second time, ending in the same result.

Wednesday’s first proposition, with a price tag of $21.2 million, would have included renovations of all student bathrooms, outdoor bleachers and playground, exterior parking lot and signage, elementary library, tech shop, cafeteria, classrooms for NJROTC, art and home economics and gym locker rooms. It also would have included a new marine career shop  for high school students, electrical and heating upgrades, a new auxiliary gym, security upgrades to doors, cameras and technology, upgrades to interior plaster walls, flooring, ceilings and lockers, parking lot reconstruction, exterior masonry work, creation of flexible learning spaces, relocation of administrative offices for security purposes, irrigation and recondition of athletic fields and a new PA/clock system to provide mass notification.

The average household with an assessed value of $6,400 would have seen a tax increase of roughly $799 annually over the 20-year life of the bonds to pay for them, according to district documents.

Mr. Gamberg initially proposed the plan to the public and school board at a school board meeting in February. At that time, the project totaled roughly $27.1 million. A turf field was also once considered.

Ms. Swann agreed that school officials must now go back to the drawing board and consider a new bond initiative voters might support.

“Now that we understand people’s feelings on the issue … I feel we can bring a better option to the table,” she said.

Top Caption: Superintendent David Gamberg observes as the district reviews the results of Wednesday’s bond vote. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed Ms. Swann’s quote to another school board member. We regret this error.) 

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