About 20 members of the community came out to the Hendrick Hudson Board of Education’s meeting that took place Wednesday night in the Hen Hud High School library to voice their opinions on the district’s proposed bond referendum.
At the meeting the board adopted the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) findings required by New York State prior to construction, and settled on a final amount of $25,094,908 for the bond. Both the SEQRA findings and the bond resolution were approved unanimously.
The SEQRA findings, simply stated, said that the proposed construction to the district’s schools, “would not have a significant adverse effect on the environment.”
Prior to the board’s vote to approve the bond resolution, Superintendent of Business Enrique Catalan explained to the audience that the final bond amount was to ensure that the proposed improvements could be carried out without having to seek additional funding for construction should the bond be approved.
Catalan stated that the proposed repairs and additions to the district’s schools, “would not exceed” the amount sought by the BOE, and could in fact end up costing less because of competitive bidding and low interest rates.
Though the BOE had expressed the wish not to have to pass the 25 million dollar mark, this final amount included an additional $169,500 for the construction of a fence to protect the campus.
This last minute cost addition comes after cost the district $14,000 to repair the damage done to one of the school’s fields after an individual drove a vehicle onto it.
Members of the board noted that this is not the first time such vandalism has occurred at the school, and that a fence with a 20-25 year life expectancy would be more cost effective than repairing similar damages year after year.
Unlike the majority of positive and supporting comments seen at previous BOE meetings, Wednesday night’s bond discussion was met by a more balanced crowd of those both for and against the bond.
Audience members in favor of the bond reiterated the benefits the new developments in the district would bring, such as increased property values and numerous advantages available for the school’s children.
Community Carol Abraham took to the podium to speak in favor of the bond.
“The schools are part of our community, and it is our responsibility to maintain the schools just as much as it is to maintain our streets or other parts of the community,” Abraham said. “I was skeptical and sitting on the fence a long time, but I feel that the board has done a good job of taking this bond into consideration.”
Those in opposition of the bond echoed each other’s concerns. Many cited the raise in taxes as the number one reason not to proceed with the bond, noting that many residents, especially seniors and those on fixed incomes, would have a hard time meeting the financial obligation.
For others in the crowd that were attending their first BOE meeting regarding the bond, there were feelings of anger because they felt that the board had not sent proper notification of the bond proposals to those taxpayers without children in the district.
One audience member who wished not to be identified in print, accused the board of being, “slick and sly” as well as “disrespectful to the population of taxpayers who might not be in favor of the bond.”
“I learned about the bond through a friend who read about it in the newspaper,” said audience member and resident Regina Keefe.
McCann and various other board members responded to these concerns by noting that the BOE meetings regarding the bond have been open to the public, announced on the district website with meeting agendas available for public review, and have been televised as well.
“To say this is sudden is not the case,” McCann said. “We have made the effort to get the word out.”
Keefe and others also felt that the bond’s voting date of Dec. 14, is scheduled at a bad time due to the threat of inclimate weather that might keep people, especially seniors, from coming out to vote; and because many residents leave the area for the winter.
Catalan explained the reasoning behind the Dec. 14 vote date.
“If we want to start working in June, when the children are not in school, we need to vote in December,” Catalan said. “If we were to vote in the spring, the whole project would be delayed a year and a half.”
For those concerned about not being able to vote on the selected day, Superintendent Dr. Daniel McCann assured the audience that absentee ballots would be available through the District Clerk in the central office, and that the information to vote via absentee ballot would be available on the district’s website.
“We appreciate all the comments, positive and negative,” said Board of Education President, Marion Walsh. “This is what a democracy is, and we are here to represent you.”
“We understand the difficulties, and that needs and wants are different to everybody,” Walsh said. “We’ve been working hard for five years to see what the community needed and how to do it. It’s a tough call, but we have given a very careful look at this.”