And then there are the grass athletic fields, which are torn up because of overuse. Athletes’ parents have complained for years about the condition of the fields. School officials say they only get worse from year to year.
The Board of Education and DeTommaso have proposed replacing the grass with synthetic turf, at a cost of $7.5 million. The proposal has stirred controversy, as it has in other districts. Some say synthetic turf costs too much. Others say it’s potentially dangerous.
In the past, the Herald Life has opposed synthetic-turf fields, primarily because of cost –– and because the district had so many other facilities needs, namely new science labs and music suites. It would have been a terrible shame to spend millions on synthetic turf while academic facilities languished. Moreover, financing turf fields through the district’s annual budget would have caused an unacceptably high property-tax spike — as high as 9 percent in a given year.
The district’s current bond proposal, however, would not force an insupportable choice between academic and athletic facilities, and it would spread the cost of the turf fields over the 15-year life of the bond, meaning that property taxes would not spike in any given year.
Times are still tough, and DeTommaso and the Board of Education understand the economic hardships people face these days. They would not seek public support for a bond that they did not believe was truly needed. Having toured the schools, we can say with certainty that it is.
If it is passed, local property taxes would increase by $104 per year, or $8.67 per month. That would be a sound investment. With interest rates still low, the time to bond is now. Many contractors, still reeling from the Great Recession, need work, so construction costs are lower than they likely will be when the economy fully recovers. Additionally, the district would save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by incorporating new energy-efficient technologies into its schools –– technologies that would pay for themselves and then some over the years. On top of it all, New York state would pay a little more than half of the bond cost –– $26.89 million.