Rye residents rejected a $20 million school bond today by a vote of 1,777 to 1,471, ending a plan to build a new wing of science labs onto the high school and renovate locker rooms, guidance offices and other areas. The plan was designed as an answer to growing enrollment, adding a total of 16 classrooms.
School board President Laura Slack read this statement after the results came in:
Although the Board of Education is disappointed by the results of our bond vote, our space challenges have not changed. The fact remains the middle school and high school buildings are already over capacity, and the enrollment projections indicate this will continue to be the case in future years. And our science labs from the 1960s and ’70s are another critical area of concern. It is troubling that in a community like ours, a well funded campaign of consistent disinformation, distortions and fabrications was used to undermine our schools….
Slack made reference to last-minute ads and robo-calls overstating the property-tax impact of the bond. According to the district’s estimates, the project would have added $47 onto the average homeowner’s bill for 2012-13 and $300 thereafter over the life of the 20-year bond. She concluded:
Unfortunately those unable to vote, our children, were the true losers today. The vote today will not end this board’s commitment to finding a solution to the enrollment issue. This board will continue our dedication to the education of children in the district.
The referendum appeared to have a very strong turnout. “I haven’t seen a presidential election this crowded,” resident Chip Barnes said after casting a “no” vote at the single polling place in the middle school.
“We just don’t need any more taxes,” he said.
Laura Breckenridge voted “yes.”
“I think we need to think forward about the future of our community,” she said afterward. Both Barnes and Breckenridge have children in the district and specifically at the high school. Breckenridge said the schools were her reason for moving to Rye. “I think it would deter people from this community if it didn’t enhance and show a concern for our school system,” she said.