The Port Chester School District is well-versed in voting for school bonds: there have been three from 2005 to 2015 and only one of them has met with success. With a new bond scheduled to go to the voters in the spring, following is a breakdown of the past projects the PCSD has attempted over the last decade.

Failed 2005 bond

The Board of Education approved a referendum for three bond propositions on Mar. 7, 2005. The three ideas were vastly different in cost, ranging from $8.2M to $42.1M, and all of them failed at the polls on Apr. 28, 2005.

The first option involved building a 35,000-square-foot science wing, adding an 800-square-foot addition to the field storage building, creating additional parking spaces and doing interior renovations to Port Chester High School. This concept would have cost $38M and it failed by a vote of 969-771.

The second idea was to only add new classrooms, a cafeteria, a gym, storage and office spaces to John F. Kennedy Magnet School and would have cost $8.2M. It failed by a vote of 999-686.

Proposition three would only go into effect if both this concept and the first option passed. It would add $4.1M to the $38M price tag so various athletic fields in the district could be renovated. It failed 1,012-670.

Approved 2006 bond

The Board of Education approved a referendum for a $25.4M project for PCHS. Science labs would be renovated, a couple of existing classrooms would be converted into labs, the earth science lab would be turned into a regular classroom, a new elevator would be installed to the cafeteria, and the exterior entrance steps and sidewalks would be replaced.

This bond passed 996-612 on Feb. 16, 2006.

Failed 2015 bond

The most recent bond put up to voters was one of the more controversial ones due to the change in the high school’s façade it called for. Originally, the bond was $62M and included additions to PCHS, added a fifth grade section to Port Chester Middle School, renovated JFK’s and Park Avenue’s media centers, added a synthetic turf field at Thomas A. Edison Elementary School and expanded parking at King Street School.

However, the elementary projects and the fifth-grade wing were cut from the project and the focus became PCHS, which dropped the cost to $41.5M. For the average home assessed at about $462,000, the annual tax increase would have been $129, according to a Westmore News article titled “Calculate how the bond affects you,” published on Sept. 25, 2015.

This blueprint impacted the view of the school from Park Avenue by creating a new hall in front of the steps and columns. The new wing would have been two stories and partially sunken into the ground, with classrooms on either side and a competition-size gym in the middle.

The referendum went in front of voters three days before Christmas on Dec. 22, 2015 and failed 994-655.

All of the designs for the bonds listed were created by Fuller and D’Angelo, P.C., Architects and Planners and all of the voting was done at Port Chester Middle School.

The above information came from Board of Education minutes and data from the District Clerk’s office.

So, what does this mean for 2017?

No matter the year or the month, the voter turnout saw only a minimal change. In April 2005, 1,769 votes were cast; 1,608 votes were cast in February 2006; and 1,649 votes were cast in December 2015. Due to the voter records constantly being updated, there is no data on what percentage of registered voters turned out for these bond votes.

It is unknown what caused two of the three bonds to fail and why the 2006 referendum was so popular with the voters. The cost is obviously a factor, but it cannot be the sole factor as to whether or not something will pass due to the cheapest option, 2005’s proposition two, failing at $8.2M.

It is currently unknown how many registered voters can participate in the Port Chester School District’s 2017 referendum as the book is constantly being updated, according to Port Chester Superintendent for Business Maura McAward. Information regarding absentee ballots for the potential May 2017 referendum will be available on the Port Chester School District website by April and information on how to register to vote can currently be found on the website at www.portchesterschools.org.

However, more is being done for the 2017 concept than for any of the other bonds. Like in 2015, the Taxpayer Alliance Group continues to write Letters to the Editor and speak at Board of Education meetings insisting that the price tag is too high for the average taxpayer in the Port Chester School District.  

But people are advocating for the bond as well. New groups such as Port Chester Partnership for Schools and Community have emerged to try and get the bond passed. As of Wednesday, Jan. 18, PCPSC has 475 members in their open Facebook group.

The Board of Education also hired Focus Media., Inc., a public relations firm that specializes in educating a community about bonds. The firm recently worked in New Rochelle and Mount Vernon and helped pass a $106M and a $108M school bond, respectively. Board of Education President Jim Dreves hopes that informing the community about the bond will also bring more people to the polls.