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Zahm Opinion: We Need a More Responsible School Bond – So Vote NO Tuesday

Bob Zahm 02-10-2010 307 

(PHOTO: Bob Zahm at a joint Board of Ed and City Council meeting in 2010.)

By Guest Columnist Bob Zahm

Rye City School District voters have another opportunity to express their feelings about spending $80 million on our schools. While re-packaged to make just about all the proposed work look like it is necessary maintenance, this is really the same bond rejected by voters a short while ago.

In addition to attempting to make all of the proposed work look absolutely necessary to keep our children from learning in unsafe, unhealthy environments, the re-packaging also attempts to provide a facade of choice. Voters have the opportunity to support almost $72 million of the proposed spending while rejecting approximately $8 million. But this choice ignores the true needs of the District being closer to $32 million.

Using the District’s own estimates, we can see that the real question should have been approving the maintenance work ($32 million) versus the add-ons ($48 million) for things like air conditioning gyms, building “curiosity centers”, creating a “Design Research Center”, adding a “HS Lab & Connector”, enclosing one of the two HS courtyards to create a “Global Learning Commons”, etc. We don’t have that choice because the District has chosen to re-package the spending in such a way that the really necessary maintenance work can be used to attempt to justify many of the nice-to-haves included in the bond.

A careful homeowner might ask the question, “How did the need for maintenance spending get so out of hand?” The District will tell you, “It’s the tax cap. We can’t ask for more money on an annual basis to fund the necessary facilities work.” Well, that’s not really true. Over the past 6 years, the District’s cash-on-hand (also known as fund balance) has grown year-in and year-out to a total (per 2018/19 audit) of $22.3 million. Again, the District will tell you that most of that money can’t be used for facilities work because of New York State regulations allowing only “undesignated fund balance” (approximately $3.6 million as of the last audit) for facilities work. In fact, as part of its annual budget, the District can choose to include as much of the total fund balance for facilities spending (or other spending, too) as it wishes. So please do not be misled into believing that the District doesn’t have money to spend on facilities because of the tax cap. The District is where it is because of decisions made by the current and previous Boards to defer needed facilities spending in favor of growing reserves.

The only way for the community to get a more responsible bond that addresses the true safety and health needs of our schools is to vote No on the bond Tuesday June 11.

Bob Zahm

  1. Well said, Bob.

    Today’s news concerns a misleading mailer from something called FriendsRCSD.org

    Shows Rye isolated on a map of supposed YES voting school districts. Says Rye is “undecided.” No. Rye isn’t “undecided,” it decided. It decided it didn’t want a mega debt issuance. It VOTED to DEFEAT that issuance. And that issuance has been resubmitted to the same voters, in new clothes, but as overweight as ever before.

    And just like Rye, Greenburgh voters recently told their school board that their $115M jumbo gumbo we-need-it-all-now numbo bond was DOA. But Greenburgh doesn’t get shown on the YES mailer map because, well, it was a blow-out NO election loss for the debt piggies.

    In politics you better not overtly lie, it tends to contribute to election defeats. Rye didn’t spend all that money to run the prior referendum only to come out “Undecided.”

    That bond was fully decided by the voters and they decided NO.

    Going K thru 12 in the RCSD taught me a few things many decades ago, including that some people will stoop pretty low just to get their way.


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