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$25 Million Bond Resolution Approved by Hen Hud Board of Ed

At last night's meeting, the Hen Hud BOE settled on a final amount of $25,094,908 for the district's bond referendum, which is scheduled to be voted on Dec. 14.

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.”

Teleman October 21, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Bottom line? Lets get out the Vote! And shoot this down!
Amy Jaeger October 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM
This is the right time and place for this. We can't keep hiding behind a down economy. We must take advantage of the interest rates and competitive pricing. This project will create jobs and will only enhance our community. I proudly support this bond. Amy Jaeger
HenHud Supporter October 21, 2011 at 01:27 PM
When if not now? If I had the opportunity to replace my 25 yr old roof at 2% interest, I'd rush to do it. If we want to support and build a tax base that will hold down tax increases for families and seniors alike, we have to maintain and modernize our schools to keep our community attractive to current and potential residents. Concerned residents need to take off the rose-colored glasses before our property values erode further.
Amy Jaeger October 21, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Great comment!
Leslie Motes Crabbe October 21, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Yes, it will cost each house roughly $300 per year...but that's a HECK of a lot cheaper than what the upgrade will cost in a few more years when it becomes an even greater need. Housing prices have dropped significantly in just the past 2-3 years...everyone knows that. And if we don't do something to make this a more attractive community to want to live in, they will NEVER recover when other surrounding communities do that have the more updated schools. For my family, that means that I eat out 2 times less at a mid-range restaurant each year. That's is an easy sacrifice for my children's education and value of my community.
Teleman October 21, 2011 at 05:57 PM
What is this rubbish about this community not being an "attractive" community to live in?- plain foolishness- the reason this USED to be an "attractive " community in which to live is because we USED to have very low taxes- you know why we can borrow at 2% interest? because the economy is in terrible shape and people and businesses who spend their OWN money are not doing large capital projects right now becuase of the uncertainty.
Teleman October 21, 2011 at 06:03 PM
How many of you actually work in the private sector? People who work in schools and in government have been virtually immune to the economic downturn and have no clue what is really going on in the economy- we need to reduce costs not escalate them. I'll vote no.
Amy Jaeger October 21, 2011 at 07:14 PM
I work in the private industry and my job actually gives me a very visible insight into the economy and the causes of our current problems. Capital improvements create jobs. Job creation will help our economy. Frozen credit markets won't help us and especially won't help the small business owners or the first time home buyers. Do you propose we wait until the interest rates are higher to take on this project?
Amy Jaeger October 21, 2011 at 07:19 PM
I would be interested to see the statistics on tax rate vs school success. I would think, by and large, the disricts with the higher rates are also those which are viewed as having the better schools. You get what you pay for and our childrens education is not an area I'm willing to hold back on. It is the most important thing to me.
Amy Jaeger October 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
And, what are the facts to support your statement that schools and government have been virtually immune to the economic downturn? I believe quite the opposite has happened.
Teleman October 21, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Government doesn't create jobs- private capital does- no, I propose that we not do this project at this time because our current school tax burden is to high- and with contributions to the teacher retirement system projected to keep climbing, as well as all of the other "standard" tax increases we get every year- $200 here and $300-there keeps compounding-I've lived here all of my life and the middle class is being driven out of here because of the tax burden-
Teleman October 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM
The bottom line? My mortgage escrow payment has been steadily been going up every year due to increased taxation-at a greater rate than my income-so it's my right to vote no and I will- we are not Bronxville here, move down county of you want gold plated schools and the taxes that go with them.
Amy Jaeger October 22, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Totally respect your opinion. You are entitled to it. I have another opinion and I'm entitled to it as well. No need for insults - just healthy debate. I was just asking for some facts to back of some of the things you are claiming here. As for my taxes, personally, mine have gone down actually quite a bit due to declining home values. Even with this bond increase, I don't believe they will be where they were 2 years ago. Please keep in mind that school and property taxes are two separate calculations. Yes, school taxes are a big portion of our total taxes but for me it is the MOST important expenditure. Our children are our future - call me selfish but yes I want the best for them! I will proudly be voting yes on December 14th.
Teleman October 22, 2011 at 12:43 AM
And I respect yours. Sometimes I think people forget it's the middle class people who run the Girl and Cub scout troops for our kids, coach sports and respond with the volunteer fire and EMS agencies to save lives and property and keep a lot of the local businesses going - A vital part of the community is being driven out and it's a sad commentary.Many of the same people who pay others to care for their children I guess will have no problem paying for all of those other services as well. So it goes.
Amy Jaeger October 22, 2011 at 01:08 AM
And this is what makes a democracy and democracy. Good night Elmer. Have a wonderful evening!
Lori Bitkower Fraternale October 22, 2011 at 01:09 AM
I'm sorry Elmer, but I COMPLETELY disagree with your statement "People who work in schools and in government have been virtually immune to the economic downturn and have no clue what is really going on in the economy" I am a public school teacher in Westchester. Our schools have lost COUNTLESS teachers, aides and secretaries over the last few years and this has GREATLY affected all of us, and mostly our students and the morale of our community!! You are sooo wrong. This bond is greatly needed and I truly hope it passes!!
Maggie Pinque October 22, 2011 at 01:47 AM
I have worked in the private sector and been laid off. I have had three of my own businesses - all of which I have had to close. I work in a small business in Montrose. I shop locally as often as I can. We live every year with the knowledge my husband can be laid off at any time. I have volunteered with both boy scouts & girl scouts. I have volunteered for years for the PTA. I have participated in the Dragon Boat races for two years - last year for Fred's Pantry & this year for Suz Crew - rowing for a cure for LMS. My husband grew up here. My in-laws are here. My kids are scholar athletes involved in the music programs at the high school. Unless I win the lottery I will never be considered wealthy. We haven't had a family vacation in more than 6 years. I am surrounded on all sides of my home by senior citizens who I care so much about and the very last thing I want is for someone to be driven out due to a tax increase. I want us to be a fabulous Northern School district, I do not want to go south. I don't know a town in Westchester that can ever be considered having low taxes. That just doesn't exist anymore. (I believe we are the highest taxed county in the country?) So, since I don't want to move, and since I want the best for the children to come, I too, will be proudly voting yes on December 14th.
Sweetpea October 24, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Why isn't anyone asking the question, "Why does all this work have to be done now?" If anyone researches past budgets, they will see the disturbing cuts that were forced on the O&M budget lines, year after year. Except for the outrageous Performing Arts Center, all the other upgrades and improvements could have been going on IF anyone was planning ahead instead of trying to look good by putting up the lowest possible % budget increases. This whole debacle is an effort to have HHSD keep up with the Jones' and put another feather in the cap of the superintendent. Once he gets this "win" he can add it to his resume for when he ditches the sinking ship. He and his board should have been anticipating these needs instead of waiting for the 11th hour. I, for one, will be one of the "rats" who will be forced to head south as soon as I am able to get out of HHSD, Westchester County and NY. All those with their heads in the sand can remain and pay for the bond. If the performing arts center portion were removed, I'd consider voting for it, but since I need to hold down two jobs just to keep my head above water, I'd never be able to get my money's worth out of it. Best of luck to all you who believe what the spin doctors tell you.
Teleman October 24, 2011 at 05:47 PM
The real question here is where do the increases end? Well, I guess they don't-money and sports fields and performing arts centers don't equal great schools- this sick mentality that we have to vote for all of this "for the kids" is just dumb. The special ed debacle at BV and the recent failure of BMMS to submit test scores to the State won't be helped by a new ballfield.
cabra October 25, 2011 at 10:36 PM
You are absolutely right a new ballfield will not "fix" the BV issue and the oversight at the BMMS has already been addressed. That does not mean facility upgrades and repairs cannot be addressed at the same time. This is more like a home equity loan to improve facilities. Unfortunatly maintanence takes money. The good news is the upgrades will have a positive impact on our students, our students' acheivment in school, our house values, and the community as a whole.
Mitch McDonnel November 04, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Sweepea, The work needs to be done now because this is the ideal time. Between low interest rates and a a desire to improve the facilties so our students have facilities that equal their ability. This district was plaqued with double digit tax increases for a number of years prior to the current administration. Dr. McCann and the current board have worked to keep the tax increases in single digits and often times below 3% since he arrived here. It took this time to get the finanacial house in order. Now that spending has been reined in, the school system can focus on growing our programs and helping our students achieve all they can. We live in Westchester- the quality of our community and the value therein is inextribably tied to the sucess of our schools. If we can't offer our students competitive programs and facilities to match new home buyers will look elsewhere and our property values and such will remain stagnent. Someone or something has to stir the economic growth we are all looking for. This is that project. This is that time.
Mitch McDonnel November 04, 2011 at 03:02 PM
The special ed "debacle" has been addressed. The school system housed a majority of its Special Ed students at BV in an effort to conserve resources and focus the attention to the program in one building rather then across the whole school system. Had the students remained in their home schools, this would not be an issue. It is also important to note the federal government has recently acknowledged the pitfalls associated with No Child Left Behind and has allowed states to appy for waivers because the legislation- Governor Coumo has applied for such a waiver.
Amy Jaeger November 05, 2011 at 03:36 AM
The project costs are under $12million to tax payers. This latest proposal is for everything which would be a huge asset to not only the district but to the morale of the community, parents and, most importantly, our student body. These are our future doctors, police officers, fireman, nurses, mayors, vets, TEACHERS, etc… Whether you have kids in the district or kids or GRANDKIDS in other districts, the education of our youth is a societal obligation. This is the idea behind public education and what has been the cornerstone of this country. I’m shocked at the anger levied at school taxes. Complain about your County, Village, Town or income taxes. (Did you ever think about what services you get from Westchester County to justify that tax?) Do not complain about your school taxes. Hen Hud’s administration works under an enormous pressure to come in within a reasonable budget every year while still hearing demands from the public about delivering quality programs and educational experiences. I’ve been hearing for years about the fields being an embarrassment; about the auditoriums and science rooms being a disgrace. Here is our chance to make a lasting change at an excellent price. We would be foolish not to take advantage of the interest rates and competitive pricing. We will never have this opportunity again. Educate yourself - lots has changed from the original proposal. Find out exactly what it will mean to you so you can make an informed decision.
Jill Gertz November 05, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Taking on debt might be ok if inflation kicks in as some experts predict. The best thing Hen Hud parents could do for their kids is keep them out of the local bars (you know who I mean). Hen Hud kids are nice but they learn to drink their faces off early
Teleman November 05, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Please do yourselves an favor and watch the documentary " Waiting for Superman" about the education system- please watch it and then come back on here and tell me how a turf field and a 1000 seat performing arts center should be such a high priority- yes we want well rounded kids but the academics is where it's at and needs to be- I personally asked Mcann to split the referendum in separate parts, because I would vote for the building and infrastructure upgrades and probably the new science rooms, but the hubris and arrogance of lumping them all together shows me the real intent- along with the referendum date the week before Christmas-
Teleman November 05, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Jill you're right- many homes have both parents working multuple jobs to make ends meet, and cover taxes- lots of these kids are left unsupervised to run amuck.
Amy Jaeger November 05, 2011 at 08:41 PM
This is a $25m project that, if passed, will be done at a cost of $12m to tax payers – less than $.50 on the dollar. On top of that, the $12m portion is being financed at an interest rate of – let’s just say - 3% or less. There will be tax calculator soon on the district website but estimates are that it will cost the average tax payer less than a dollar a day. I don’t know about you, but I have never been presented with a deal like this in my life. I consider it a gift and don’t intend on missing this opportunity. Please, base your decision on the facts!
Teleman November 06, 2011 at 12:21 AM
The fact is there is no end in sight to the tax increases-we need to be streamlining government and school districts alike not bloating them more- we need to concentrate on the fundamentals of academics- this country needs engineers, scientists, doctors and mathematicians( certainly a few less lawyers)- if you are in a financial position that allows you not to care how high your taxes go, than I am happy for you- but for many of us these never ending tax increases are killing us- I'll vote no and you vote yes. I have enjoyed the discussion, chat with you all at the next tax increase, take care. :)

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