Greenport schools look ahead following failed bond vote

07/10/2019 3:27 PM |

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Two weeks after Greenport School District voters rejected a proposed $23.8 million Capital Improvement Plan, district officials headed back to the drawing board to begin mapping out next steps. 

On Tuesday, officials unanimously approved three work session meetings Tuesday to discuss the future of the defeated plan.

Last month, 354 residents voted no on the first of two ballot measures, with 331 supporting the bond project. The vote on the first proposition failed by a 23-vote margin.

The first measure, which totaled $21.2 million, would have paid to renovate instructional spaces, exterior play areas, parking lots and cafeteria; construct a new auxiliary gym and marine career shop; upgrade the district’s PA system, electrical service, heating, plaster walls, flooring, ceilings, lockers, security and technology; relocate administrative offices; and recondition the athletic fields.

The vote on the second proposition, with a price tag of about $2.5 million, was not tallied because it was contingent on the passage of the first. It called for the addition of a six-lane track and reconstruction of four exterior tennis courts.

Superintendent David Gamberg said the district aims to present voters with a similar but less costly bond proposal in late October. In order to meet a deadline and receive approval from the state, bond and legal counsels, the school board must complete a draft of the new ballot measure by the week of Aug. 26. The exact date for a potential revote has not been determined, Mr. Gamberg said.

Work sessions to discuss the bond are set for Monday, July 15, at 7 p.m.; Thursday, July 25, at 4:30 p.m.; and Monday, July 29, at 7 p.m. and are open to the public, new board president Daniel Creedon said. Additional work sessions may be added to the agenda next month.

It’s easy to reduce the cost of the project by subtracting parts of the second proposition, Mr. Gamberg said in an interview last week. It’s the numerous items in the first proposition that need to be vetted to get to an accurate revised total.

“I do think we have to analyze carefully before I can project anything,” he said.

If the project is approved by voters in the next vote, the district will have to add inflationary costs to the total amount. Mr. Gamberg said taxpayers are still paying off the $8.75 million bond project approved in 2010 to fund repairs and improvements at the school building. That bond is expected to be paid off in full by about 2030 and will reduce the tax impact of the new capital project for residents.

Approximately 3,000 mailings were sent out to Greenport residents regarding the bond vote. Mr. Gamberg said it’s hard to pin down exactly why voters said “no” to the bond project.

“To my way of understanding, there was a segment of the population — without getting into any detail — that were experiencing a number of other fees and costs that were hitting at this time,” he said. “So, this just became one more thing to afford.”

He mentioned that some voters might not have agreed with all parts of it, and denied the entire project. Another portion of the voters most likely did not support the project. However, the number of voters suggests some did support the project and recognize it as a legitimate need.

To insure that district officials have a clear understanding of why residents voted as they did, he said, the district may conduct a survey related to the results, host public forums and, hopefully, host informal conversations with community members.

This summer, the district plans to use excess funds from the 2010 bond project to replace the boys’ bathroom on the first floor. Additional funds from the NYS Smart Bond initiative from 2014 will be used to replace exterior doors, card-readers and the visitor ID management system, he said.

“That’s not the full level of security changes that we want to see in the district, but it is a step that’s happening separate from the bond,” he said.

Mr. Gamberg initially proposed the plan to the public and school board at a meeting in February. At that time, the project totaled roughly $27.1 million and utilized funds from the repair reserve. A turf field was also initially propose, but was ultimately withdrawn from consideration based on community feedback.

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