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Letter to the Editor: Why I Support the Bond

Letter-To-The-Editor(This letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Kathy Stahler)
Dear Editor: Over the last few weeks, I have been asked many times, why exactly I support the bond. I find this a hard question to answer because the reasons are just so clear to me and the other side just so unclear. So here it goes...

1) TAX NEUTRAL: To start, this costs us all nothing! Do you hear, NOTHING... It is TAX NEUTRAL. All of the schools in the community will get the improvements they require at no additional cost to us! And why don't we want this? If this bond is not passed, the determined needs for the community will fall on all of the taxpayers. This means that either our taxes go up or the needed improvements/repairs will be postponed. For those who don't think the focus should be on staying tax neutral, I am thrilled that you can afford tax increases, but not all of us fall in that same bucket and an increase, to our already high taxes, would mean life changes.

2) SCHOOL DISTRICT NEEDS: This list was carefully put together by experts. We are not all experts. I, personally, never expected to be part of this process and believe that the right people were brought in to determine this. The teachers, principals and key community member on committees were involved and added the needed intel. It is beyond understanding that anyone in our community would question whether the proposed renovations to our schools are necessary. Boilers, roofs, burners, ventilation systems, and electrical panels that are far older than their expected life expectancy need to be replaced before the need to replace occurs on an emergency - and far more expensive - basis. Just as with our own homes, we need to take care of the buildings we send our children to for 180+ days a year for 13 years of their lives. This should not be a question. They will need to happen with or without the bond and will fall on all of us should the bond not pass.

3) GREENACRES RENOVATION AND EXPANSION:
a. GREENACRES IS OVERDUE: Other neighborhoods questioning why Greenacres deserves this funding or state that it is too much to spend, take a look and see this school has been passed up and is severely overdue. The existing classrooms that will be preserved need to be updated and they will under this bond. Bathrooms will become ADA compliant and all teaching will be removed from the basement areas. Safety will be addressed and health concerns due to dampness will be mitigated. All the other schools have received funding for improvements and renovations and it is now Greenacres turn. Yes, it is a lot of money, but that is because it has been passed up multiple times and the cost has built over time.

b. RENO AND EXPANSION TO OLD SCHOOL v. NEW SCHOOL: To set the background, I too was in the new school camp when this whole process began. I too thought a state of the art facility in the middle of the Greenacres Field was a dream, but I am not an expert on what is right for the community and with enlightenment to the true details of the project, I now believe the plan we have in place is exactly what is needed for our children. I live in an old house and when I needed new kitchen, I didn't tear down my house or move out, I tore the kitchen to studs and updated it to the gorgeous state of the art design it now has. Old is not necessarily dangerous or not as good, it can sometimes be stronger and higher quality. The district has provided a clear cost analysis that is available on the bond website. Anyone who says this doesn't exist, hasn't clicked yet or gone to the many events and meetings where this information has been distributed.

c. SAFETY: Edgewood is currently being renovated with the kids attending school, the middle school did this too and the high school does this on a normal basis. Why should Greenacres be different and why is this dangerous to these children and not to the others in the district? Safety is the highest priority in everyone's mind and the district has answered all the required questions and made adjustments to accommodate concerns. It is time to let this work happen and trust the experts. Once again, we are NOT experts.
d. PARKING: They have said over and over that they are still working on this. Why would we not sign off on a bond because of parking? Walk to school if it is so painful or park a little further up on Sage Terrace or park on Brewster and walk the two blocks. There is plenty of space for the 45 mins each day of pick up and drop off -- not even, when traffic is an issue. Also, please feel free to contact the Village about traffic issues as they are currently working through a plan.

e. TIMING OF WORK: There will always kids that have to live through the work if it is a new building or an improvement on the old. So pushing this off only means the next set of kids will have to live through it. There are too many people ok with this mentality of pushing off to the next generation. The work has to happen, sorry your kids will have to live through it, mine will too and no matter what, someone's will. It seems bizarrely selfish to vote against this bond to pass it off to the next set of kids. I am surprised people can live with this. I can't.

4) GROUPS, BLOGS, FORUMS AND LEAGUES WITHIN THE COMMUNITY: In the past, I have truly respected the opinion of all of these groups and acknowledge the time and energy that these volunteers put in to benefit the community, but recently and in my opinion, it seems many of these reports/editorials are painful skewed to the views of a select group. They are meant to provide educated responses, truthful information and to allow the community to come to the conclusions they chose to come to. Unfortunately, instead of this, scare tactics have been used, threats have been thrown and false information has been circulated. For example, the League of Woman's Voters Report mainly states the community has not been involved in the process and that there is a lack of the needed information. This couldn't be less true. Business works this way, experts work to generate the best possible plan and when they have it, they open the forum to the rest of the people involved to take the work to the next level and to check progress. There is no way anything would have been able to move forward if the involvement of the community had been expected at every step of the process. There have been many different platforms that have allowed questions and where the board and district has been very open to answering the question of the attendees and have asked for involvement. Changes have been made due to input from these meetings and committees There have also been committees instituted to encourage involvement.

This report also states a lack of pertinent information. If you don't have the information you need, go on the website and take a look. It's there. Maybe you should have attended more of these meetings or watched them as many were video cast or even recorded for you? Maybe you should have sent in your questions? I admit some of the information took too long to be shared, but it is all there now and the meetings are still happening where you can ask questions- Attend them, sit down and read the information. Lack of information or the process shouldn't be reasons to vote no at this point unless you don't like where we got to and that is your conclusion after you educate yourself. The vote is still ahead of us –Educate yourself, don't just listen to one source. Hear the sides, read the documents and make a decision you can feel good about.

5) VOTING NO TO EXPRESS YOUR DISLIKE OF THE PTA, BOA or DISTRICT EMPLOYEES or THE PROCESS: This is just one of the many reasons I have heard. Please take a step back and see that we got to a good place even if you don't like how we got here. Experts were used to get us here from outside our community, they are not any the people you dislike. If we vote no, I fear we will head back in to the tailspin and we will be back where we are if and when the next vote happens. The experts got us to where they are for a reason and don't just vote against the bond to vote against these people. It only hurts our kids.

I am sure there are issues I have missed and contingencies of the community -- it seems there are a million of them. I hope I can enlighten at least a few people. We are a community that has always come together to support education for all the children in the district, not just ours. It is why our school district has consistently been rated as one of the top school districts in the country. Let's do it again. I urge everyone to SUPPORT THIS BOND AND VOTE YES on February 8th.

Thanks for your time,
Kathy Stahler

Comments   

#43 Bad Process Bad Proposal 2018-02-06 16:06
I appreciate Patti Schwartz and others' countless hours in contributions to this bond process. I also agree with her assessment that Greenacres is not about wants. It's about severely neglected needs. However, I disagree that process doesn't count. A poor process means that a fair democratic process wasn't used to truly engage the community to weigh in on needs and values. This is how you get to a proposal that doesn't reflect a good solution to the problem.

However, any way you examine the current proposal, so many of Greenacres' needs will not be addressed. It doesn't mean that we should accept a solution that will address a few things, such as larger 4th and 5th grade classrooms, but keep K-3 classrooms sub-standard. It doesn't mean we should accept a plan that pushes a building out to the curb on a tight site, doesn't address chronic mold and moisture problems, doesn't change out old 100 year old pipes, just to name a few of the many things this plan doesn't do.

The question shouldn't be whether everything in this bond is needed. It should be whether we can solve more problems with the same amount of money, or make a better investment with the money. I feel like many people in the community (I'm not saying this of you Patti) are so sick of this whole thing they are ready too throw their hands up and just accept something, anything that just gets something moving. But that is not right. This is why I will be voting no, and respectfully disagree with Ms. Schwartz. Scarsdale can do better!
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#42 Patricia Schwartz 2018-02-04 10:41
To all those who are categorizing the expansion of Greenacres school as a "want" rather than a "need", I don't think that you fully appreciate the lack of multipurpose space at our school. My first grader hasn't been able to have PE all week due to setup for a chorus concert in the gym, and this has also interfered with indoor recess during this inclement weather. We can't have any special events and continue normal class programming because there just isn't space, and kids end up spending literally almost all day in the four walls of their (small) classrooms. And as to declining enrollment, tell that to my forth grader's class of 27-- the district has repeatedly emphasized that projecting enrollment is a very inaccurate science, and no previous projections have accounted for the likely impact of recent federal tax changes on pushing empty nesters to sell because they can no longer deduct their property taxes. If you've been following the bond process (in which I've been involved as a member of the most recent Greenacres Building Committee) you'll know that I've been a frequent commenter at board meetings and haven't been a fan of the process by which the bond has been developed, but there's no question in my mind that everything in this bond is needed. And because it's content (and not process) that matters in the end, I'm voting yes.
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#41 VOTE NO!!! 2018-02-01 17:11
Don't even know where to begin... So much here makes no sense that it would take much more than this comment box to go through each item. Starting from "it costs nothing" and ending with things like we did a small renovation in Edgewood so that is the same as a massive renovation somewhere else is just beyond flawed logic.
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#40 Think of it like this 2018-01-30 18:35
Quoting Vote Yes!:
Please stop patronizing her. It is very clear that she meant tax neutrality and that taxes won't go up as a result of this plan.

Quoting Think of it like this:
Kathy, tax neutral does not mean the it will 'cost nothing.' If the bond fails, the tax burden will go DOWN. If we borrow about the same, it will stay about the same. If we borrow more...it's not complicated.

Kathy, imagine your last mortgage payment was approaching next year and a contractor said "hey we can work it out with your bank so that you can add an awesome tennis court and driving range without any changes to your monthly payment" - Does that mean it "costs nothing" ?

We should be focused on what we are borrowing/spending on - not that we can keep the monthly mortgage payment (or in this case, taxes) the same!



With all due respect, it is not patronizing to illustrate that her words: "TAX NEUTRAL: To start, this costs us all nothing! Do you hear, NOTHING... It is TAX NEUTRAL. " reveal what she and probably others may NOT understand.
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#39 This Bond Limits Our Future Options 2018-01-30 14:12
I think there is some confusion about wants vs. needs and what work was actually done to determine them. This is understandable given the misleading way in which this bond was marketed as a “health and safety” bond.

The priority “health and safety” fixes are the “Category 1” projects determined by a physical survey of the existing infrastructure. These fixes are legally required and frankly our district has been negligent in not even knowing that these conditions existed until now (several apparently have persisted for many years while we spent money on other things). I would consider only this Category 1 work to be the true immediate need, yet it constitutes less than half of the $65 million “health and safety” bond.

The Greenacres project, which is not a need, constitutes almost half of the entire $65 million bond, yet it has nothing to do with “health and safety”.

The right thing to do is to vote down the current bond and let the school board bring another bond before voters for just the Category 1 work. Then we can all work on a comprehensive long-term list of priorities and their educational impacts (this work has not been done) and see where a Greenacres cafeteria fits on that list after a full analysis against all other priorities.

If we spend all of the $65 million now on the actual needs plus Greenacres, any other investment in our schools will require raising taxes because we spent the excess beyond the “health and safety” items in one bond on the Greenacres project. I don’t think that’s a bargain that most Scarsdale taxpayers are willing to make.
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#38 Can you ask? 2018-01-30 13:58
Joanne - can you ask Stuart Mattey the answer and let us know? There shouldn’t be any need for people to be speculating about such basic things a week before the vote!

Thanks!

Quoting Focus on the real issues:
Bashing Kathy for her word choice is pointless. What I want to know is what is the real, total cost of renovating Greenacres - what is in the bond plus what is going to be in the operating budgets.

Why won’t Stuart Mattey give us this very basic info?

Quoting Bond PLUS operating budget:
When you add up the 35 million being bonded plus millions more that will be funded by the OPERATING BUDGET, you do get to over 40 million total. It’s a real shame that the district refuses to make this clear.

Quoting Hold on a sec:
If this is true - that the actual cost of the Greenacres project is over 40 million when all is done - then I think the Administration needs to disclose that clearly. That is too much money for a renovation of one school with declining enrollment.

Quoting To Bond supporter:
It is actually $35mm for Greenacres (there is money under other buckets as well). Plus there is still $6mm in priority 3 that will need to done in the future (roof, windows, etc). Plus another $600k- $1mm for parking that they claim they are doing "soon". We are in the mid 40s for Greenacres.
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#37 Focus on the real issues 2018-01-30 13:50
Bashing Kathy for her word choice is pointless. What I want to know is what is the real, total cost of renovating Greenacres - what is in the bond plus what is going to be in the operating budgets.

Why won’t Stuart Mattey give us this very basic info?

Quoting Bond PLUS operating budget:
When you add up the 35 million being bonded plus millions more that will be funded by the OPERATING BUDGET, you do get to over 40 million total. It’s a real shame that the district refuses to make this clear.

Quoting Hold on a sec:
If this is true - that the actual cost of the Greenacres project is over 40 million when all is done - then I think the Administration needs to disclose that clearly. That is too much money for a renovation of one school with declining enrollment.

Quoting To Bond supporter:
It is actually $35mm for Greenacres (there is money under other buckets as well). Plus there is still $6mm in priority 3 that will need to done in the future (roof, windows, etc). Plus another $600k- $1mm for parking that they claim they are doing "soon". We are in the mid 40s for Greenacres.
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#36 Vote Yes! 2018-01-30 13:15
Please stop patronizing her. It is very clear that she meant tax neutrality and that taxes won't go up as a result of this plan.

Quoting Think of it like this:
Kathy, tax neutral does not mean the it will 'cost nothing.' If the bond fails, the tax burden will go DOWN. If we borrow about the same, it will stay about the same. If we borrow more...it's not complicated.

Kathy, imagine your last mortgage payment was approaching next year and a contractor said "hey we can work it out with your bank so that you can add an awesome tennis court and driving range without any changes to your monthly payment" - Does that mean it "costs nothing" ?

We should be focused on what we are borrowing/spending on - not that we can keep the monthly mortgage payment (or in this case, taxes) the same!
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#35 InterestingPoint 2018-01-30 13:02
Both the Administration and The Forum's Education Committee have sent out surveys in the last two years asking the community what its priorities. Unfortunately, often residents do not participate in these surveys. You are absolutely right that the Administration and Board of Education should know our priorities. Moreover, the District needs a five-year long term financial plan incorporating those priorities.
Yet, if people do not participate in surveys to let their priorities known, is it fair to blame the Administration and Board of Ed?
Quoting What is the Real Cost?:
What’s missing from this discussion is what economists call “opportunity cost” — the idea that since we don’t have an unlimited supply of tax dollars to spend on our schools, we need to consider what will be the “lost opportunities” for Scarsdale if we vote to fund these specific projects with this $65 million bond.

For example, I would have ranked air conditioning for all schools as a higher district priority than a cafeteria at Greenacres. Other residents may reasonably have other priorities.

What our school board failed to do was to create a master ranking of priorities based on educational impact and community input. This was the point that school board member Chris Morin made late last year, and I’m surprised that it didn’t get more discussion in the community because I think he was absolutely right. I don’t see how anyone could feel comfortable voting for this bond without that information.
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#34 Vote Yes! 2018-01-30 12:51
The District did this. They did a comprehensive overview of all buildings in the District and ranked "needs" with different priorities. This bond addresses the most critical needs while maintaining tax neutrality.

With respect to GA, The new Learning Commons / Cafeteria is critical to solving a severe lack of multi purpose space at this school. It allows, among other things, for dedicated spaces for music and art that are out of the basement.

Regarding A/C, this is a want and not a need. The Board has been focused on what is needed and said they will come back to A/C once the infrastructure issues are taken care of with this bond.

You might disagree, but this is the approach they have taken.

Quoting What is the Real Cost?:
What’s missing from this discussion is what economists call “opportunity cost” — the idea that since we don’t have an unlimited supply of tax dollars to spend on our schools, we need to consider what will be the “lost opportunities” for Scarsdale if we vote to fund these specific projects with this $65 million bond.

For example, I would have ranked air conditioning for all schools as a higher district priority than a cafeteria at Greenacres. Other residents may reasonably have other priorities.

What our school board failed to do was to create a master ranking of priorities based on educational impact and community input. This was the point that school board member Chris Morin made late last year, and I’m surprised that it didn’t get more discussion in the community because I think he was absolutely right. I don’t see how anyone could feel comfortable voting for this bond without that information.
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