Where do the BOE Candidates Stand?

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Candidates for Rye City School District Board of Education response to following question:

Question: “Do you believe there is a link between Rye residential expansion and RCSD school-overcrowding?”

Candidate Answers (in alphabetical order)

Karen Belanger

Yes, BUT…

I think the question above over-simplifies a complicated relationship between housing and schools in Rye. Let’s be honest, the real question here is whether current property taxpayers are going to have to pay additional school taxes due to increases in the housing stock (or, more specifically, the number of bedrooms available) in the City of Rye.

The first issue to consider is how school costs are affected by the addition of new students. Enrollment is undoubtedly a huge driver of the expenses of a school district, however, these costs are essentially step function expenses. In other words, adding an extra student (or more) to a school may actually incur almost no additional costs – this is how Blind Brook is able to actively pursue tuition students to increase revenue, while incurring almost no additional costs, as they are currently running under-capacity. Eventually, however, the next new student will require an additional teacher; more new students may require a space study and reorganization to permit an additional classroom; many more students may push the district to build a new building. Where the district sits with regard to those “step function” thresholds will determine what the incremental cost of an additional student – it could be anywhere from an extra workbook to a whole new building.

Property tax costs behave very differently. First, with a tax levy cap in place (that does not permit additional taxation for additional enrollment), as long as a budget is tax cap compliant, taxpayers will notice no difference whether enrollment shrinks or rises. The “2%” (or whatever number is allowed under the tax cap) will be the rise in the tax levy regardless of how many students are attending Rye City Schools. Obviously, for District administrators and a Board of Education who must bring a budget to the voters, it is much easier to stay under the tax cap with a shrinking enrollment than with a growing enrollment! However, in the short term, that doesn’t affect taxpayers at all.

The second factor about property taxes is that the total change in the tax levy from the school district is only the starting point in how your individual property taxes are calculated. The tax levy that voters approve (or not) on May 20th only refers to the sum total of funds that the school district can collect. Anyhow who successfully files a tax certiori claim to reduce their individual property taxes is essentially forcing all other taxpayers in the City of Rye to pay a little bit extra to cover those “lost” tax dollars. Anyone who builds a new house in Rye that results in a larger tax bill than whatever the property owner used to pay is helping out their neighbors by taking on a little extra of that tax burden. The total dollars to the school district (or the municipality, or the county) do not change. The only thing that can change is the amount that each individual contributes to the total tax levy of the school district or the city.

As a Board member (and frankly, as a property tax payer as well!) much of my worry regarding residential expansion in Rye and the effect on the schools is focused on potential and actual multi-family dwellings. My understanding is that multi-family condos, coops and rental units are assessed on a very different basis from single family dwellings (essentially based on potential rental income, not the value of the land and buildings). As multi-family complexes have the potential to bring a large number of students into the Rye schools (possibly pushing currently high enrollments over the thresholds to add new teachers, classrooms and possible building space) while being taxed at a relatively lower rate than single family dwellings (i.e., not taking on as much of that tax burden from their neighbors), I worry more about the financial impacts of such proposed developments. That is why the Board was concerned at the original plan to rezone the Lester’s property to permit multi-family residential units and spoke to City Council regarding the proposed rezoning. The Board continues to monitor and discuss with the Mayor and City Council other proposed new or expansion multi-family units – for example, the expansion of Rye Manor and the proposed new development on county land at Theodore Fremd. The Board has spoken up and City Council has listened. Both properties are zoned for senior residential facilities only – to ensure that potentially large numbers of new students will not push our school district over the threshold to incur extensive additional step function costs.

Blake Jines-Storey

School over-crowding is a problem we will be dealing with in Rye for some time. As a high performing district our schools will always be very much in demand. As I’ve stated publicly, my family actually came to Rye for the great schools and the amazing sense of community. This is also one of the reasons I’m seeking a spot on the school board. I believe I can continue the legacy of excellence for which our schools are known.

However, as a candidate for school board or even an actual member, I have very little influence on the number of children coming to our schools. My job on the board will be to further the educational opportunities in the Rye City Schools. I will do as much as possible to work with our City Council in a collaborative way to find solutions to the influx of students that are predicted.

I have read a little about and can appreciate your position on zoning issues. Thank you so much for your service and concern in our community. I truly believe that dedication like yours is what makes Rye a great community. Thank you again for reaching out and I hope I can count on your support on May 20th.

Jason Mehler

Somewhere along the line, Rye Schools have taken a wrong turn. It is time to move in a new direction.  It is time to vote for a candidate who can contribute new ideas, views and opinions. It is time to give new residents an opportunity to serve.

I understand the many important decisions taken by this school board and am fully prepared to make the necessary choices from day one.

I am committed to serving our community while taking into account everyone’s best interest.

As a parent, homeowner, resident, taxpayer and someone who works in this great city, I want to help make Rye the best place to live, visit, work and raise a family.

My decision to run was based entirely on my commitment to helping the taxpayers of Rye as well as its youngest and most precious residents.

My goal will be to keep school taxes low without sacrificing programs and services.

I believe we must serve all the children in our district and will work to help parents who have children with special needs. I will be your advocate on the board.

Every parent, student, teacher, employee and administrator deserves to be treated with respect and I will work with every member of the community who seeks my advice and assistance and treat them with the dignity they deserve.

We must rebuild the trust between the teachers and administration. I will be a liaison between the district and our educators to repair what has become a fractured relationship.

The seniors in our community also have a stake in the quality of our schools and I will represent them on the board to make sure their voices are heard.

Sharing  information will be expected, not obstructed.

Together, we can be the instrument of change and open diologue between the administrators and the community. I respectfully ask for your support and vote on May 20th.


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