Rocky Point residents defeat school renovation plans

Rocky Point residents defeat school renovation plans

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Rocky Point Board of Education members announce the results for the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After much anticipation, the Rocky Point Board of Education members revealed the results for the school district’s $20.4 million maintenance bond after voting took place on Monday, and the results were less than impressive.

The bond’s $17,478,513 Proposition 1 received 396 votes in opposition and 320 votes in favor. Proposition 2 was also defeated, 465 to 233 votes.

The bond aimed to target repairs and renovations to the facilities, as well as health and safety projects. Proposition 1 focused on major projects, like bathroom repairs, upkeep, or additions, like outdoor bathrooms; fixing boilers; lighting ceilings; air conditioning; and locker room renovations, among other projects. Proposition 2 dealt with what some residents perceived as minor projects. This included funding items like artificial grass.

Less than 1,000 residents went to the Rocky Point High School gymnasium and voted on the bond. Wendy Guthy, of Rocky Point, whose third child recently graduated from the high school, was one of many residents who voted against the bond.

“There are things that the community doesn’t feel is necessary based on what [the Board of Education] told us two years ago,” Guthy said.

She said the board informed residents that the institution was in good standing in 2013. Guthy also added her thoughts on some renovations she found unnecessary, like repairs to the turf on the athletic field. Other residents shared Guthy’s same opinion regarding the bond’s minor projects. Rocky Point resident Judy Stringer said the bond’s propositions had “too much fluff and too many wants…instead of needs.”

“All those extra bathrooms and turf is not needed,” Stringer said in a phone interview. “Things that should be taken care of [are] the high school bathrooms and the Frank J. Carasiti bathrooms. Those things are important and necessary for the children.”

While Guthy said no to the renovations, it is not because she wants to deprive students of the renovations, but thinks about the pressure it would put on parents’ wallets.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘No,’ to the kids,” Guthy said. “But you have to be budget-minded too.”

According to the board’s newsletter regarding the bond, the state would have funded the majority of the bond, which requires taxpayer dollars. Despite this, the board’s newsletter claimed that Rocky Point taxpayers would pay less than $8 monthly to fund the propositions. Residents would have experienced a total tax impact of $92.35 if the bond was passed. Even if Proposition 2 passed, the approval of the entire bond would depend on whether the first proposition passed.

One resident, who did not want to give her name directly after voting, said she felt bad voting in opposition of the bond but she “wanted to send a message, that [the Rocky Point Board of Education]…shouldn’t tack on those extra things.” While this resident admitted that a new heating system was in order among other necessities, she said minor projects deterred her from voting for the bill. At the time, she believed the bond would pass.

During the Aug. 31 Board of Education meeting, some individuals from the New York State United Teachers School Related Professionals Association gathered to voice their opinions regarding teaching assistants versus teaching aides, and added that they would not vote in favor of the bond if the board were to eliminate teaching aide positions. Jessica Ward’s position as a teaching aide was eliminated during that meeting.

Many of these individuals attended the Monday meeting.

Rocky Point BOE President Susan Sullivan said the board tried to address the needs of the school and was disappointed with Monday night’s results on the bond.

“As elected representatives of our community, the Board of Education worked to present a bond that struck a balance between the infrastructural needs of our buildings and repairs that would preserve the integrity of our schools in a financially responsible manner,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is disappointing that the proposal presented did not garner the support of our community. We are committed to continuing to provide our students and staff with a safe and secure learning environment and will work together with our community to discuss ways to properly support our educational facilities.”

Despite the results, Superintendent of Schools for Rocky Point school district, Michael Ring, still appreciated residents’ participation with the bond.

“The district thanks the public for their participation in the bond vote,” Ring said in an email. “Moving forward, the district will continue to review its facilities’ needs in order to determine actions that may be necessary to sustain the integrity and maintenance of our buildings and grounds.”