Clarkstown residents learned Thursday night that school district
administrators and board of education members are meeting on Monday with New
York State Education Department (SED) officials regarding state funding for the
repair of Congers Elementary School. The district’s application for SED aid for
the school’s $6.5 million repair cost was turned down earlier this month. After
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski intervened, SED agreed to reconsider the request.
State aid would cover 55 percent of the work needed to reopen the school closed for safety reasons in August. If the proposed $6.5 million bond to fix the building is passed next month, state aid would mean a difference in what property owners would have to pay.
With state aid homeowners would pay $10 per year over 30 years for the work. Without state funds, homeowners would pay $26 annually over 15 years. Commercial businesses or non-homestead properties would pay an increase of a quarter of one percent.
While the SED officials’ visit was good news for the supporters of the proposed bond, they characterized other information coming from the administration as misleading and divisive. A frequently asked question packet, which was prepared for the February 4th bond vote and distributed this week, drew criticism at the board meeting.
Several residents and board member Joe Malgieri took issue with wording.
“I just think this sends a negative message to the community,” said Malgieri.
He said it tells parents if you vote yes for the bond your kids get moved, if you vote no they stay.
The document reads, “If Bond Vote is ‘Yes’ – It will be recommended to the BOE that all elementary school districts will be rezoned. If Bond Vote is ‘No’ – The only movement of children will be from Congers Elementary into New City Elementary and Lakewood.”
Congers parent Phil Leiter said residents could interpret that if they vote no on the bond, there will not be any redistricting beyond the three schools. Pete Bradley of Congers said the wording makes it sound like people will be punished if they vote yes because all elementary schools may be redistricted.
School Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton explained that if the bond fails, the addition of the 234 Congers students to New City and Lakewood elementary would bring their classes to between 18 and 26 students. Those sizes are in line with the rest of the district. He said that parents would be notified by mid to late March which school their child is going to, however that information would not be complete for students with IEPs until May or June.
The bond vote will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Lakewood, Link and West Nyack elementary schools and Clarkstown North High School.