By Abigail Weinberg
The Pleasantville Board of Education is expected to approve a resolution this week to present voters with an $8.9 million bond issue this May for facilities improvements at all three of the district’s school buildings.
About 10 community members attended a special meeting that saw architect Lauren Tarsio from Clark Patterson Lee address trustees and district administrators at Pleasantville High School last Tuesday to discuss the potential improvements. The proposition would be on the May 21 ballot, the same day as the budget vote and Board of Education election.
Funding in the proposed bond would include security improvements at the entrances for all three schools and asbestos abatement, electrical upgrades and window replacement at the middle and high schools.
Other potential renovations would include creating a new library/media center and recoating the metal roof at the Bedford Road School, which opened in 2003; repurposing unused locker rooms at Pleasantville Middle School; and reconstructing the cupola and replacing the auditorium roof at the high school.
Trustees also discussed regrading and resurfacing the basketball and tennis courts and adding a separate bathroom facility near the athletic fields.
Tarsio said many of the improvements would save the district money in the future. For example, asbestos tile abatement is needed in order for maintenance to be done on the buildings, and recoating the metal roof at Bedford Road School will extend its life, preventing the district from having go through a full replacement.
Because the Pleasantville School District has debt that will retire in the coming years, the proposed improvements would be budget-neutral, said Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter.
Fox-Alter stressed that the district’s schools are its most important asset and said the community has thus far responded positively to the possibility of the work.
“People understand roofs, people understand electricity, people understand the need of looking at additional safety and security,” she said. “This meeting is a great way of getting a pulse on the community and how they feel.”
Board of Education President Angela Vella said that in 2021, when the work would be scheduled to get underway should the proposition be approved, is when the exact same level of debt will be retiring, creating no additional increase in the budget or taxes.
Vella said that the district needed to move quickly to adopt a resolution to get the proposition on the ballot for this May’s vote. This Tuesday, Mar. 26 is the last opportunity the board has to include it for that vote, she said.
At stake is about 10 percent in building aid that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed cutting in the 2019-20 state budget. Currently, the Pleasantville School District receives between 45 and 50 percent in building aid, but that would be reduced for any project approved after June 30 should that reduction stand in next year’s budget. The amount of aid the district loses could turn out to be even greater because of a tiered system, Vella said.
If community members voice concern that the district is moving too quickly, the board would have time to legally rescind the proposition and hold it at a later date, she said.
“If we get feedback that they feel we’re rushing, that it’s too quick, we can pull back,” Vella said.
So far, community sentiment has been in favor of presenting voters with the bond, she said. Reaction from the small turnout at last week’s special meeting was positive.
The next step would be to have the project approved by the state Education Department.
Martin Wilbur contributed to this article.