WE NEED YOUR HELP — Support your hometown newspaper by making a donation.

Public to vote on new Glen Cove school bond in October

Posted

The tension was evident during a Glen Cove City School District Board of Education meeting on May 22, when several attendees urged the trustees to draft a new school-infrastructure-improvement bond. Residents said they were disappointed by the board’s lack of urgency in responding to the defeat of an earlier version of the bond in March, but trustees and administration members said they had been working on developing a new bond since then.

The board said it would have a new bond ready by the end of the school year. At its June 19 meeting, it delivered on that pledge, adopting a new bond referendum with a vote of 6-0. Trustee Robert Field, who was vacationing in Switzerland, stayed up until 1:30 a.m. local time to vote “yes” via Skype, but Trustee David Huggins was unable to attend the meeting, electronically or otherwise. The public will vote on the new bond in October.

There are a number of differences between the $84.6 million bond that was voted down in March and the new measure. Perhaps the biggest difference is that the new bond is divided into two separate propositions.

Proposition 1, called Critical Scope, totals $53.4 million, and outlines improvements that are most critically needed in the district. Maria Venuto, a member of the committee that drafted it, said that the safety and security of students and faculty was the measure’s top priority.

If Proposition 1 passes, all six schools would see the installation of more secure classroom doors and improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and each building would receive needed safety upgrades as well. Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna added that compliances with the American with Disability Act was a priority for Proposition 1 as well.

Proposition 2, called Essential Scope, would provide an additional $23.5 million for other improvements, including renovations to the choral and music rooms at Glen Cove High School. It would fund restoration of the northern parking lot at Finley Middle School and play-area asphalt restoration at Connolly Elementary School, among other projects.

Together, the two propositions total roughly $77 million.

Rianna said that separating them was largely a response to residents’ feedback following the first bond’s failure. Many said that the bond had asked for too much money at one time.

Venuto said the split was meant to make the proposed spending more palatable for voters. It will also give them options, she said, because they will be able to vote “yes” on Proposition 1 and “no” on Proposition 2 if they choose.

Rianna said that the administration, the school board and the bond committee examined every item in the previous bond when deciding what needed to stay in the new one. She said that nothing new was added that was not in the original measure, and some things were taken out, including aesthetic projects, such as converting the high school’s grass field to artificial turf.

Rick Smith, who voted against the first bond, said he would not change his vote this fall. He said that $53 million was still too much to ask for, and he didn’t believe that any of the proposed improvements would directly benefit education. He specifically sited HVAC improvements as a sticking point. Schools need air conditioning only for small periods of time, he reasoned, and schools without air conditioning have done fine in the past.

Smith, the owner of the Piano Exchange in Glen Cove, also said that the tax increase that the bond could necessitate would hit commercial businesses harder than the district is projecting. Most of the work that’s needed could be done by local companies for less money, he said, so a bond is unnecessary.

Venuto and Rianna both said that one of the most crucial aspects of the bond process is that district representatives spread accurate information on the measure. They plan to set up tables at popular events such as Downtown Sounds, Venuto said, to answer any questions people may have.

“It’s important that we go out into the community more,” Rianna said, “and make sure that everybody has the real information.”

Despite the opposition to the first bond, Venuto said she was optimistic that the new one would not suffer the same result. She added that she was confident about the measure, and about the community’s desire to improve district schools.

The vote for the bond is scheduled for Oct. 22, when residents will have the opportunity to submit ballots for both propositions. If Proposition 1 passes, the results of Proposition 2 will be tallied afterwards.