The HNA’s Schools Committee met with the GCSD administration and board leadership on 2/27 on the upcoming bond. We conveyed what Hartsdale people told us they still need to understand, and followed up with the below letter. We appreciate their time, and look forward to their follow up.
Dear Dr. Chase and team,
Thank you for the discussion last night on the GCSD bond. To recap, these are the points that HNA members are telling us they need clarified or expanded and some of the suggestions that came out of the meeting.
- Communicate the actual metrics by which success will be measured in the next five years and why. Taxpayers are looking for specific metrics that are recognized as credible and commonly used by educators and home buyers when comparing school districts. Hopefully this will help to counter old perceptions and avoid GCSD potentially appearing as an outlier. Being able to compare apples to apples will illustrate in a more compelling way the trend of the academic performance. Today residents believe their home prices are lower than they should be because GCSD student outcomes are seen as lower than metrics being used by surrounding communities.
- Show a list of the programs (like Universal pre-k, STEAM, special needs programs etc.) that cannot be offered now or barely pass compliance because of the inadequacy of current physical plant. Perhaps build a chart, noting current conditions for each and how the bond offers and improves on the space we now have for each of these.
- Insert hyperlinks on the website to all studies noted.
Bond costs and basis for them
- Show the all-in-cost of the bond — the $114 million cost plus the interest (including projected interest rate of calculation).
- Post on the GCSD website the financials for each segment of the project. Along with the costs that are already listed, please provide the likely interest rates (range for illustration purposes) at which the money will be borrowed and the lending periods. It would be helpful to reiterate that both principal and interest are included in the AVERAGE $14/month/$100K, but that this number is subject to fluctuations due to interest rates at the time of borrowing, and which are beyond the GCSD’s control. A graphic showing how the payments will fluctuate over time, as per David Warner’s suggestion, would also be helpful. Finally, if you plan to have the bond rated (and thereby lower the rate of borrowing), this too should be posted and would be a good confidence-builder for the community.
- Display the payment schedule for tax increases over time (perhaps a line graph showing that March 20 does not mean tax Armageddon. Superimpose this with the payment of the borrowing costs)
- Clarify that the tax increases of $14 month per $100k of assessment includes interest. (this is an average, does that mean that some people will be taxed higher.)
- Provide us with the actual Bailey and Highview assessment study. Mary’s email today notes that the NYS estimate of $2.5 million was 2008. We need to understand how the estimate increased nearly tenfold in a real estate market in Greenburgh that has barely recovered to those levels. We want to be sure that those who work with the development community provide a realistic number and have zoning knowledge given the “use” limitations on the Highview sites: both Bailey and Highview have single-family home zoning, yet today single-family homes are not being developed here for market reasons. Zoning changes for single properties are extremely difficult to get and a zoning change would take several years in Greenburgh with no certainty. Residents will remember “$20 million” and if the properties actually sell for considerably less, it will be a point of confusion or credibility. Being really clear on the future possibilities for the properties will reduce heartburn with taxpayers.
- Consider adding to your text that if new Greenburgh development is approved and added to the tax rolls, that some of these assessments go to GCSD, and will help cover some repairs at Woodlands and other schools.
- Today we received a suggestion that to cut fear of cost overruns and future bond increases that the Board say it will create an independent oversight committee and think this needs to be explored.
- Having a response to the Town’s traffic study communicated as soon as possible will also reduce community questions or concerns.
The additional information recommended may go a long way to diminish fear and increase trust that can kill this bond’s prospects. Again, thank you all for meeting with us and hearing the concerns that have been raised in the HNA.
HNA Schools Committee