Voters in the Hendrick Hudson School District are being asked to support an $18.5 million bond in addition to the annual budget on Tuesday, May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Frank G. Lindsey Elementary School.
Despite facing an uncertain financial future with the closing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants in a few years, school administrators are emphasizing the current health and safety needs in district school buildings that would be addressed if the 20-year bond, which would not raise taxes, is approved.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Hochreiter has said most of the projects proposed in the bond stemmed from Safety Committee recommendations and a building condition survey conducted by an engineering firm in 2015.
Enrique Catalan, assistant superintendent for business, has explained almost $12 million of the bond will be spent on safety improvements. He said currently the district only has about $200,000 available to do small projects.
Some of the improvements planned include replacing doors that are not fire resistance, updating locker rooms to be handicapped accessible, replacing outdated heating and ventilation units, renovating classrooms, main entrances and auditoriums, and replacing aged roofs.
In addition, the district is looking to vastly improve its 30-year-old high school track by installing a turf field. Catalan said by installing turf instead of natural grass the district would save $214,000 over 26 years. He also noted the state would pay 40% of the cost of the field replacement.
“There is a strong need to upgrade safety features in our facilities and provide the best classroom settings to give our students the best opportunities to succeed,” said Board of Education President Barbara Pettersen. “These buildings need upgrades.”
Hochreiter, Pettersen and other school officials have held numerous meetings, large and small, in an effort to get the word out about the importance of the bond passing.
In addition to the bond, residents will be voting on the annual school district budget and two seats on the Board of Education. Three candidates will be on the ballot: Mary-Pat Briggi, a former board president, and Laurie Ryan are running for reelection, while Richard Sklar is also in it to win it. Sklar was the lone candidate to respond to an email seeking comments.
Sklar, a director with a national provider of cost containment services to the healthcare industry and a resident of Cortlandt since 2005, said a number of factors contributed to his decision to run this year.
“Not least of which has been the encouragement of friends in the district. Like me, I imagine many residents are wondering if our school district is spending money efficiently and appropriately,” he said. “I’d be honored to leverage my experience and skills in Finance and Information Technology for the benefit of the district. I intend to advocate for financially sound decision-making, provide effective spending oversight, and encourage the free flow of information between the Board of Education and district residents,” he added.
He said the planned closing of Indian Point presents challenges that require sound decision-making and oversight.
“Financial concerns top most everyone’s list. Annual budget and spending discipline is critically important, particularly in light of potential large-scale capital projects,” he said. “The quality of education and opportunities for our students is also a top priority. I intend to focus on fulfilling the district’s mission to provide outstanding educational and inspirational opportunities to prepare our students for productive adulthood.”