Voters in the Carmel Central School District soundly rejected two large scale bond propositions Monday that would have cost $85.6 million, but would’ve also paved the way for massive upgrades in facilities across the district.
The two propositions failed miserably with 1,430 (64 percent) voting against the first proposition and 1,512 (68 percent) voting against the second proposition. The stinging defeat left district officials disappointed and questioning what they could’ve done differently to yield a better result.
As results were announced, members of the board of education and community that were in attendance at Carmel High School and supported the bond gasped, thinking and hoping the results were going to be better news for them.
The Carmel Board of Education approved the referendum at the end of October in a 6-1 vote with Trustee John Curzio the sole dissenter. The cost of proposition A was $37.2 million and the price tag for proposition B was $48.4 million. For a house assessed at $350,000, the average payment over ten years for both propositions would have been $10.71 per month or $128.47 per year.
The bond would’ve paid for building and property improvements in the district including purchasing a piece of property for a new transportation facility, creating two innovation wings at the high school, replacing roofs, upgrading fields at the middle school, renovating libraries in several schools, paving the baseball field at the high school to convert it into a parking lot, as well as other renovations. The improvements were meant to align with the district’s strategic plan and match with 21st century learning, supporters said.
But opponents of the two bond proposals argued taxes in the area are high enough and these bonds would only add to the tax burden.
A disheartened Andy Irvin, Carmel’s superintendent of schools, said he didn’t think the district did a good enough job getting information about bonds out to voters. He noted just because the bond was for more than $85 million, it didn’t mean that full price tag would be carried by local taxpayers. New York State aid would have covered some of the expenses toward the facilities upgrades and construction, he said.
He also pointed to the federal tax plan currently proposed in Congress, which would eliminate what homeowners can deduct in taxes on a federal level. Irvin believes that potential change worried voters about the higher taxes they could be paying in the future.
The school board will meet next week to discuss the next steps moving forward.
“I think they need to take a look at these numbers and say where do we go and I think there’s probably at least two if not three options,” Irvin said. “Maybe you take the things that are going to happen whether they get voter approval or not, and those things alone would ruin school budgets, so you have to get them in a bond. It’s still the only way you’re going to do it, but maybe you get support for that.”
School board member Richard Kreps said the community sent a message that the bond project was too expensive. The board needs to reconsider what projects it needs to pursue going forward, he said.
“It doesn’t mean it was a complete disaster, it just means you have to rethink where we need to be,” Kreps said. “There are some things we definitely need, so the board will have to go back and rethink it according to what the community told us.”
School board member John Cody said he thought the board needs to discuss what it should do following this bond defeat and possibly restructure something with the help of the committee that worked on this bond.
“I think a lot of people have worked very hard over the last few months volunteering their time and really put a lot of thought into this,” Cody said. “It’s always disappointing when you think you’re doing what’s right for the student body.”