Some passionate collective displeasure erupted from a small gathering in the front lobby of Glen Cove High School as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maria Rianna announced that a proposed $84.6 million bond, intended to fund improvements at the district’s six schools, failed in Tuesday’s vote.
According to unofficial results, 1,171 of the 2,725 voters who cast ballots supported the bond, while 1,554 opposed it.
The bond would have financed work at all of the schools — upgrades in security, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning — as well as renovations particular to each school, such as improved drainage in Connolly Elementary School’s parking lot, playground resurfacing at Deasy Elementary, elevator and restroom additions at Gribbin Elementary, and partial roof replacements at Landing Elementary. Finley Middle School would have seen improvements in Wunsch Auditorium, and many of Glen Cove High School’s classrooms would have been renovated.
If the bond had passed, the average owner of a Glen Cove home worth $500,000 would have seen a tax increase of roughly $36.53 per month, or $432 per year.
Reactions to the vote were mixed. “It’s so disheartening,” Rianna, a strong supporter of the bond, said, “but we’ll pull together and move forward.”
She added that the district’s administration and Board of Education would continue to work on ways to fund necessary renovations. She also acknowledged the hard work of those who assembled and promoted the bond. “I know a lot of parents and community members worked hard to help support the passing of this bond, and I don’t want to minimize their efforts,” Rianna said. “They were wonderful.”
One of them was parent Maria Venuto, who spearheaded the pro-bond group Vote Yes March 12. Venuto said that she and other bond supporters would continue to focus on improving the school district. “We’re not giving up on making our schools better,” she said.
Rick Smith, owner of the Piano Exchange in Glen Cove, was a staunch opponent of the measure. He voted against it, he said, because he believed it was unnecessary, and would not have funded the changes the district really needs. “I’m feeling like the public knew that this was more money than they felt necessary to accomplish the benefits the schools need,” Smith said. “If there’s a ceiling tile that needs to be replaced, you don’t replace all the ceilings.”
The bond, he added, should have focused on improving students’ education instead of building renovations. If it had, he said, he might have voted differently.
Orion Marchese, who spent his childhood in Glen Cove public schools and graduated from Glen Cove High School in 2013, said he was disappointed by the result. “I know the conditions of the schools,” he said, “and I know that the repairs are desperately needed.”
But Marchese added that he understood why people voted against the bond, because it can be difficult for residents to willingly raise their own taxes when they don’t have children in the district. “It’s important that we figure out why people voted no,” he said, “and to see if there’s a way that we can fix this so that people feel invested in the school district.”
“My feelings are mixed, because I think they put too many things in the bond,” resident Jan Warner said — though she declined to say how she voted. “If they were more focused, they would have been more helpful to the children in the area.
“I just feel that they had some good things in there,” Warner added, “but the bad stuff they had in there was really bad.”
According to District Clerk Ida Johnson, there were many absentee ballots, and Rianna said that the votes would be recounted. The official results were to be announced at a Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, but were not available by press time.