The Nyack Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $26.4 million dollar bond referendum later this month. Although most of the monies will be dedicated to repairing infrastructure and upgrading technology, most of the discussion in social media and at two public forums sponsored by the schools has been about replacing natural grass fields at Nyack High School with artificial turf.
Here are two POVs from Rick Tannenbaum, a Valley Cottage parent who opposes the bond and Owen Voutsinas-Klose, a student who urges voters to support the referendum.
Artificial Turf Stadium is a Bad Idea
by Rick Tannenbaum
On October 29, 2013, voters in the Nyack School District will have to decide once again whether or not to permit the school district to borrow money to build an artificial turf stadium at the Nyack High School. The resolution, if passed, will permit the district to issue bonds and borrow and spend $26.4 million dollars on building improvements throughout the district, including almost $8 million dollars on a new artificial turf stadium at the high school, complete with 2000 stadium seats, a state-of-the-art press box, new lighting and concession buildings. Voters should reject the resolution and vote NO on October 29th.
The district already has a 1700 seat natural grass stadium a few blocks away at McCalman Field. The district has been neglecting the grass there, spending only a portion of its allocated budget on field maintenance. In the last few reported years, the district has been allocating $45,000 per year for field maintenance and only spending a small fraction of that amount, sometimes less than 15% of the allocation. If the district maintained the grass fields properly, it would have no need to install artificial turf or build a new stadium. And, the existing field is right in the heart of Nyack with many attendees walking to the games or parking on neighborhood streets. There is not enough parking at the high school for 2000 guests, the players, the staff, and the visiting team.
The district is finally poised to pay off all its existing debt in the next year or two, and should not immediately plunge taxpayers back into 15 more years of payments. Estimates of the cost to repay the principal and interest on the new debt exceed $2,000,000 per year for the next 15 years, and may be more if interest rates rise before the district borrows the money. The old debt should be retired and new debt rejected. Taxpayers can use a break on their school taxes, especially as town and county taxes skyrocket. And, even if the district does not give taxpayers relief when the old debt is retired, that $2,000,000 per year in savings can help re-hire fired teachers and staff or enhance the academic programs in the district. Why are we considering an artificial turf stadium when we are still laying off teachers?
Five years ago, voters in Nyack agreed to establish a capital improvement fund and we now have over $5,000,000 saved for necessary improvements and safety enhancements. The district has structured the bond resolution so as to prevent the community from using that money unless and until the voters agree to a new artificial turf stadium. This is neither reasonable nor fair. Safety improvements should not be held hostage to artificial turf. Whose interest does the district serve when it says we can only be safe in our elementary and middle schools if the high schoolers get to play sports on artificial turf?
When the voters say NO on October 29th, the district will come around and make the improvements and upgrades that are actually necessary. We have the money in our capital fund to fix our schools. That is what happened when Nyack voters rejected artificial turf six years ago. The district’s threats that students would go without if the bond failed were just empty threats. Nyack voters rejected an unnecessary bond and an unnecessary turf field six years ago when the economy was strong. They should do so again, especially when we are just at the beginning of a fragile and uncertain economic recovery. This is not the time to take on excessive debt. This is not the time to raise taxes. And, it is certainly not the time to consider artificial turf.
Rick Tannenbaum is a parent of a middle-schooler and a resident of Valley Cottage.
The Bond from a Student’s Point of View
by Owen Voutsinas-Klose
As I hear adults argue about the future of the 28 million dollar bond vote that would improve the school facilities, I have noticed that the opinions of the people who the schools are used by and made for are not being sufficiently heard. I know that in the end of the day the taxpayers decide the future of this bond, but the students of the public school district are the people who use the school facilities on a daily basis, and our voice should be heard. That’s why I am writing this. Looking out of the window of my social studies class, I see the soccer field where some of my classmates play on the soccer team. The field looks like it has seen better days. In the center is a large dirt patch with sparsely growing grass surrounding it. Sometimes, I see a large dust cloud come up when someone runs on it. This is unacceptable. We deserve more than a dirt covered “grass” field. Considering all that happens on that field, we need a field that can stand up to this kind of wear and tear, while requiring little to no maintenance. We need a turf field. We need one desperately. Also, we need to have a centralized sports location. It is insane that our district needs to bus kids around to McCalman field and back to play a sport. The new field will benefit the student body tremendously.
Going to school everyday makes me see the need for simple things that would improve the facility as well, such as new windows. Many of the ones in my classrooms are in disrepair and it takes quite a lot of time to open and close. Some of the school infrastructure is crippling, and the bond would buy 98 security cameras that would boost the sense of safety inside the school. The cameras would even hook up to local police systems, which would give the police a view of the school without having an officer there at all times. The bond also includes access card readers for extra security, which would make the school more secure by having the side doors secure to only school personnel. All these security reinforcements are a plus, because in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, you can never be too safe when it comes to protecting the students and faculty of the school.
Now that two of the many reasons this bond is beneficial are out of the way, why not a third? This bond will be 37% paid for by the state, and another 5 million dollars paid for by the district’s reserves. Best of all, it doesn’t raise taxes, unlike the previous referendum seven years ago. We see the need for these critical improvements everyday when we go to school. Now should you.
Owen Voutsinas-Klose is a student at Nyack High School.
Absentee Ballots for the School Bond Referendum
Absentee ballots are now available the October 29 from the Nyack Schools Bond Referendum. Registered voters should request an absentee ballot application by from the email or by phone (845-353-7013) from the District Clerk if they will not be in the district the day of the vote or if they are disabled.
After completing a required application voters will be issued a ballot that must be returned by the day of the vote. Applications and ballots cannot be mailed less than seven days preceding the vote.
- Nyack Schools Float $26.7mm Bond Initiative, 9/16/2013
- Nyack Schools Turf War: An Artificial Argument, 8/18/2013
- Proposed Bond Referendum Questions & Answers, Nyack Schools, Sept 2013
- Powerpoint Presentation: Nyack Public Schools Bond Referendum, October 2013
- “Nyack School Bond” Facebook group
- “Vote Yes — Nyack School Bond” Facebook Group