To the Editor,
On October 29, 2013, voters in the Nyack School District will have to decide once again whether or not to permit the School District to borrow money to build an artificial turf stadium at the Nyack High School. The resolution, if passed, will permit the District to issue bonds and borrow and spend $26.3 million dollars on building improvements throughout the District, including almost $8 million dollars on a new artificial turf stadium at the high school, complete with 2000 stadium seats, a state-of-the-art press box, new lighting and concession buildings. Voters should reject the resolution and vote NO on October 29.
The District already has a 1700 seat natural grass stadium a few blocks away at McCalman Field. The District has been neglecting the grass there, spending only a portion of its allocated budget on field maintenance. In the last few reported years, the District has been allocating $45,000 per year for field maintenance and only spending a small fraction of that amount, sometimes less than 15% of the allocation. If the District maintained the grass fields properly, it would have no need to install artificial turf or build a new stadium. And, the existing field is right in the heart of Nyack with many attendees walking to the games or parking on neighborhood streets. There is not enough parking at the high school for 2000 guests, the players, the staff, and the visiting team.
The District is finally poised to pay off all its existing debt in the next year or two, and should not immediately plunge taxpayers back into 15 more years of payments. Estimates of the cost to repay the principal and interest on the new debt exceed $2,000,000 per year for the next 15 years, and may be more if interest rates rise before the District borrows the money. The old debt should be retired and new debt rejected. Taxpayers can use a break on their school taxes, especially as town and county taxes skyrocket. And, even if the District does not give taxpayers relief when the old debt is retired, that $2,000,000 per year in savings can help re-hire fired teachers and staff or enhance the academic programs in the District. Why are we considering an artificial turf stadium when we are still laying off teachers?
Five years ago, voters in Nyack agreed to establish a capital improvement fund and we now have over $5,000,000 saved for necessary improvements and safety enhancements. The District has structured the bond resolution so as to prevent the community from using that money unless and until the voters agree to a new artificial turf stadium. This is neither reasonable nor fair. Safety improvements should not be held hostage to artificial turf. Whose interest does the District serve when it says we can only be safe in our elementary and middle schools if the high schoolers get to play sports on artificial turf?
When the voters say NO on October 29th, the District will come around and make the improvements and upgrades that are actually necessary. We have the money in our capital fund to fix our schools. That is what happened when Nyack voters rejected artificial turf six years ago. The District’s threats that students would go without if the bond failed were just empty threats. Nyack voters rejected an unnecessary bond and an unnecessary turf field six years ago when the economy was strong. They should do so again, especially when we are just at the beginning of a fragile and uncertain economic recovery. This is not the time to take on excessive debt. This is not the time to raise taxes. And, it is certainly not the time to consider artificial turf.