Capital project referendum fails in Skaneateles

Computer purchase passes

The residents of the Skaneateles school district hit the polls on Tuesday, June 11 to vote on two referendums. One passed and one did not.

The referendum to bond for a $22.7 capital building project was rejected by voters, 685 to 478.

A referendum to purchase $77,810 of new computer equipment passed 717 to 438.

More than 1,150 people voted including 62 absentee ballots.

The board of education and interim superintendent Judy Pastel were present at Waterman Elementary School at 9 p.m. when district officials closed the polls and tallied the results.

The project proposal included deferred maintenance work for the middle and high schools such as replacing roofs, replacing a boiler and doing asbestos abatement. These items are still urgent and the board will work on a new proposal for next fall so that they can be addressed, Board President Evan Dreyfuss said.

“We’ll spend the summer talking to people about what parts they wanted to do and what parts they didn’t and come back out in the fall with something the public can support,” he said.

The project also included tearing down the middle school gymnasium and building a new, larger one at a price of $5.48 million. The board debated taking a less expensive route with the gym and other aspects of the project when it was putting together the proposal back in March, but it decided to go with the biggest option after hearing support from residents.

However, several residents spoke in opposition to the project, particularly the high expense of the gym, at a public information session on May 28.

The rejection of the proposal is a reflection of the public’s unwillingness to deal with higher taxes, Dreyfuss said.

“It’s a community vote and the community spoke. The community is dealing with a high level of taxation in New York State and I believe this is a reflection of that. It’s not all about the schools, I think there is a lot of New York State frustration too,” he said.

The computer purchase referendum was necessary because New York State is mandating that standardized testing for grades three through eight be conducted in computer labs starting with the 2014-15 school year. The board decided to bond for the computers rather than including them in the annual budget, because the requirement was unexpected and came with no support from the state.

Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at editor@skaneatelespress.com.

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