The following letter to the editor was submitted and written in its entirety by Carol Popolow Abraha. To submit a letter to the editor, email email@example.com.
People are talking about the school and this school bond as if our school is a separate entity, its own little village separate from our community. In truth the school is our community. It is as much our responsibility to maintain the physical structure of our school as it is to maintain the streets, the traffic lights, the business districts, the train station, etc. The appearance and functionality of our school buildings and grounds don’t affect just the kids that attend our schools, they affect our whole community. They affect our house prices, the quality of our educational instruction, our reputation and our pride in our community.
Our school facilities are stretched beyond their current capabilities. They are used both by our students and by the Town of Cortlandt. As was presented by the Board of Education at the October 12 meeting, the number of sports using our fields has increased from ten in 1979 to 22 today making an artificial turf field and other upgrades necessary. Not only are the school athletic fields used by the Town of Cortlandt, the buildings are also being utilized for adult and senior programs such as the Verplanck Senior Citizens Club, Boating Safety courses, The Cortlandt Stamp Club, and Adult Piano Instruction. The school grounds and buildings are truly a COMMUNITY resource already and could be so much more with the upgrades proposed.
The PAC has been decreased in size from 1,000 to 850 seats, keeping its functionality for school-wide events, but decreasing the overall cost dramatically. The rehearsal spaces will be in the HS building, making it easy for students to get to their classes and rehearsals in the winter months. Redundancy of larger instruments had been built in so the instruments won’t have to be moved between buildings. There are plenty of parking spots for all just not a dedicated parking facility. The parking situation is not ideal but it is functional just like my Kia is not a Mercedes.
The quality of all of our facilities directly impacts the quality of our schools’ instruction. The improvements proposed will help to attract and keep top teachers and will allow innovative new programs for our students. This can only reflect positively on our property values and the quality of the students our schools produce.
A joint study completed by The Trachtenberg School at George Washington University, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and The Department of Economics at Princeton University and published in 2009 on “The value of school facilities upgrades on housing prices” showed that: “passage of a bond leads housing prices in the district to rise by approximately three percentage points immediately, rising to about twice that within three years. This effect appears to last for at least a decade." For the median Cortlandt house this translates to a rise in property value of about $10-12,000 the first year, rising to $20-25,000 within three years. For the median house in Cortlandt the cost for the bond is projected to be less than $200 per year for 20 years or $4,000 over the course of the bond. We would likely see a 2X return on our investment reflected in our housing prices THE FIRST YEAR and 4X within 3 years. The interest rates are at an all-time low, making this a very attractive time to propose a bond as well and the resultant construction would bring jobs and money into our community.
I was one of those people that were skeptical of the scope of the bond proposal. I sat on the fence for a long time. We are a community of people who have had to work hard for what we have. We know the value of a dollar and how difficult it can be to make ends meet. We have seen our paychecks shrink and our expenses grow. We like to know that we are getting our money’s worth when we agree to spend it on a public project. I feel the Board has done a good job of taking this into consideration. I hope that all of our community members both with children in our schools and those without children currently in the school will see the value of these improvements to the community as a whole and will support the bond.
Carol Popolow Abraham