Schools Are Delaying Capital Bond Vote to the Fall

by Melany Gray

(April 3, 2008) Although there were no formal votes taken at the Mamaroneck School Board’s study session on Tuesday, April 1, board members appear to have come to consensus on the timing of a bond vote (not until the fall) and the amount of the budget (around $116,923,297) that have been under consideration in recent months. In addition to discussing their planned visits to the schools, board members hashed out several aspects of the bond and heard about further revisions to the budget.

Among the issues raised was the status of the environmental review (or SEQRA) process, which requires the completion of certain filings before some of the planned capital improvements and field enhancements can be presented to the community in a bond resolution. The board has been weighing a long list of maintenance projects (including replacing the boiler at the Hommocks Middle School) along with upgrades to sports fields and playgrounds. (See: Mam'k School Board Closing In On Major Bond Decision.)

Community members were given an opportunity to voice concerns about the SEQRA filing, and several people had questions about the planned synthetic turf fields at the high school and their potential impact on neighborhood homes and storm water runoff. One parent noted that the SEQRA filings do not address the heat effect of the artificial turf or how that might impact neighborhood children who play on the high school grounds in summer when the fields are not being used for organized sports.

Amy Levere, the board president, explained that the SEQRA process is ongoing and that rather than responding to comments, the board will be making note of them as the filings are completed.

More significantly, Ms. Levere said that the board would not be in a position to put any of the proposed work to the community in the spring because the state has raised some questions that require further review. Linnet Tse, the board vice president, explained that state agencies have asked for additional information because of the size of the planned boiler at the Hommocks and the proximity of the overall project (capital improvements as well as fields) to the waterfront.

The board is continuing to research various possibilities for the infill of the new high school artificial turf fields, as well as the particulars of playground surface enhancements at Murray and Chatsworth schools and the parking lot reconfigurations at the high school and Central School. In addition, they have yet to determine whether the Central School field will be replaced with natural grass or synthetic turf. They also asked Meryl Rubinstein, assistant superintendent for business operations, to examine the planned capital work to determine whether some of it, including certain bathroom renovations and electrical upgrades, could be done through the operating budget. None of this work, whether to be financed through a future bond or the operating budget, will impact the proposed 2008-2009 budget.

Ms. Levere expressed a strong desire that the board attempt to finalize the specifics of the proposed work and adopt a bond resolution in June before the school year ends so that the finalized bond proposal can be adequately explained to the community before the bond vote, anticipated for late September or early October. By law, the board must adopt a bond resolution at last 45 days before it presents it to the community for a vote.

Finally, Superintendent Paul Fried presented the newest revisions to his proposed school budget. Two teaching positions, originally cut from the high school, have been added back in as requested by the board, and this expense has been offset by the removal of the two proposed additional campus supervisors for the high school and another 1.5 district-wide contingency teaching position. Dr. Fried explained that the extra campus supervisors were eliminated in light of the board’s decision to install a full contingent of security cameras at the high school this year. He also noted that careful review of projected and actual enrollment data supports the elimination of the contingency teachers, which are budgeted in the event that enrollment in a particular grade requires creation of an additional class. The proposed budget retains 1.5 contingency teaching positions.

The latest proposed budget of $116,923,297 is $1000 less than last week’s proposal, with a 5.89% budget-to-budget increase and a 5.75% tax increase. (Mam'k School Budget Drops to $116.9M With 5.75% Tax Hike.) At its next meeting on April 8, the board will adopt a budget for the 2008-2009 school year and will make tenure awards.

Melany Gray is co-president of the Mamaroneck High School PTSA.