How the P.C. bond will be paid for
How the P.C. bond will be paid for

For the first time in three months, the Port Chester Board of Education was in unanimous agreement during their Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting at the Port Chester Middle School. But, then again, the board members weren’t voting on anything related to the proposed capital project.

After a quick presentation about the middle school and recognizing various students for their achievements in music, football, leadership and character, board members heard from a few members of the audience and then moved to create an ice hockey team for middle and high school students.

Bond talk

Advocating for the $79.95 million bond was resident Robert Reis, who said he wasn’t previously aware that the district had been cited for capacity issues. But now that he knows the number of students within each building, the Munson Street resident explained that he is all for the capital project and took a moment to thank the Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) for putting in the work to create a plan that encompassed all the schools that needed new classrooms.

“The rhetoric coming out is recycling the old arguments,” Reis said in regards to those who are worried about the bond’s cost. “We need space. Space costs money.”

“It’s nice to see the other schools are getting the necessary classroom space. Congested classes leads to congested learning,” Reis concluded.

Kevin Allmashy was the final person to speak who didn’t have ties with the BAC. Allmashy’s family has lived in the Port Chester School District for over 100 years and he would like to be able to continue that long heritage. But he expressed his fear that if the overcrowding issue isn’t solved soon, then more programs will be cut and more people will move away.

Allmashy, who has children entering the district next year, explained that his love of cooking began within the walls of the Port Chester schools and, because of the high school’s culinary arts program, he was able to foster a passion that turned into a 25-year profession as a chef.

The Whittemore Place resident also recalled practicing his instrument in Robert Vitti’s office, who is the high school band director. Over 25 years later, the students still use his office as a practice space because they do not have a band room.

He also cited the combined gym/cafeteria space in King Street School, the size of the high school’s gym, and King Street’s parking as issues that needed to be addressed. Because the BAC addressed all of this in the project they recommended and the school board approved, Allmashy wholeheartedly supports the bond.

“This is our town,” Allmashy said. “I still love this town and I can’t imagine cutting anything else in the future such as band or choir or anything, because if something doesn’t get passed now, they’re going to start cutting again. I can’t imagine anything else being less than what we have now.”

Bond Advisory Committee members also addressed the board. Former BAC member and Taxpayer Alliance Group Co-Chairman Thomas Ceruzzi explained that TAG has been facing backlash from people who wanted to know why they didn’t put up another plan in opposition to the BAC’s recommendation. Ceruzzi reminded the community that he pushed for former BAC member Richard Hyman’s plan, which added classrooms on the end of the wings on Tamarack Avenue and refurbished the current gym.

Former BAC member Keith Morlino later pointed out via the BAC’s minutes that the refurbished gym was added after the committee voted to reject the plan.

Ceruzzi added that TAG would have also supported renovations to John F. Kennedy Magnet School.

“We took into consideration that the Kennedy School is probably the most toxic school in terms of overcrowding right now,” the co-chairman said. “We would have considered a plan that fixed both of those schools.”

“This bond is in peril,” he concluded.

How will the bond affect taxes?

The Board of Education posted a tax calculator on their website, www.portchesterschools.org. To find it, go to the Parents/Community tab and click “2017 Capital Project.” The tax calculator uses data from 2015, so the estimates might vary slightly from the numbers presented below.

The average home in the Port Chester School District, which encompasses parts of Rye Brook, is assessed at $477,000. This means the average homeowner can expect a one-time increase of $0.98 a day, which is $29.40 a month or about $352.80 a year. After the 24-year bond period is up, the average district taxpayer can expect to have paid around $8,467.20.

Taxes will not be raised overnight.

“It will be a couple of years before taxes increase,” Board of Education President Jim Dreves said. “There is a flow to this thing.”

All of these numbers are after factoring in state aid, which is 39 percent of the total project, $31.18M out of $79.95M.

Want to show your support?

If you are in favor of the bond, members of PC Partnership for Community and Schools have banded together to create lawn signs. The signs read “Vote YES for the school bond. March 28, 2017.” If you are interested, contact Elizabeth Rotfeld at lizzieski@verizon.net and provide your name and address. Someone will drop off a sign at your home and pick it up on March 29.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at Port Chester High School.

Betsy DeVos

In an historic decision, Vice President Mike Pence had to break the tie vote and elected Betsy DeVos as the 11th United States Secretary of Education. Devos faces a lot of opposition from public school boards around the nation that have taken stances to oppose her. The Port Chester school board decided to handle DeVos’s confirmation like they handled John King’s Common Core – they will go on record against some of her decisions, but they will not make an attack against her as a person.

“I will say, personally, I have a problem with a lot of things she’s said,” Dreves said. “We will go on record against, like we did with King, we will fight the battle, but we don’t want to get in the issue of fighting it on a federal level.”

Instead, Dreves said they will leave the fight mainly to their state representatives.

Ice hockey team

The Board of Education voted unanimously to try their hand at another ice hockey merger for seventh, eighth and ninth graders. The district has done this in the past, but the program was terminated due to rising costs and an unsustainable method of payment. This time, the Port Chester School District is merging with Blind Brook, Rye Neck and Harrison for the purpose of establishing the Rye Town/Harrison Titans team for the 2017-18 academic year. The team is currently comprised of Blind Brook, Harrison and Rye Neck students.

The merger will cost $750 per student and each district pays for its own students. The cost includes renting ice rinks for practicing and games. Parents are responsible for the student’s equipment. For more information, go to www.hockeylax.net/.