STATEMENT OF THE NEW ROCHELLE BOARD OF EDUCATION AT THE PUBLIC HEARING ON THE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR THE PROPOSED ECHO BAY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
March 12, 2013
My name is Deirdre Polow, and I am the Vice President of the Board of Education for the City School District of New Rochelle. On behalf of the Board of Education, we appreciate this opportunity to be heard on the important subject of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Echo Day redevelopment project. As I believe you are aware, the month of March is when the Board reviews the Superintendent’s Preliminary School Budget, and the Board President and the remainder of the Board are at this moment in a budget review session at New Rochelle High School.
The Board of Education always has supported economic development in our great City. However, when an economic development project is proposed that will have an impact upon either the number of children in our schools, or the amount of school tax collected on the property, or both, we believe we are duty-bound to appear before the City Council or the IDA as the circumstances warrant.
The Board of Education acknowledges that here, for the first time in recent memory, the City has undertaken to structure some kind of school tax recapture in an economic development initiative. We hope this will be the model for all future economic development projects. Nevertheless, we do have concerns related to Echo Bay, and these can be summarized into three points.
First, without debating the methodology or reliability of the Rutgers model, or whether it might be the best model for determining the number of school-age children in a housing complex, the figure that emerges is just an estimate. As a duty to our community, we respectfully maintain that the school district must be kept whole in any agreement reached with the developer of this project. By the end of the proposed 20-year tax abatement period, the number of children living at Echo Bay could exceed the number projected in the DEIS. We believe that some studio and one-bedroom units could be inhabited by a single parent or a family with a young school-age child; and that the number of two-bedroom units that will be inhabited by one or more schoolage children could be greater than projected in the DEIS. We urge the City Council to structure the school tax payments for this particular development with this variable in mind.
Second, while the stated figure of $17,500 per pupil for the amount of school tax recapture on this project might be adequate for the earliest years of this development, we respectfully suggest that the School District’s costs will not remain fixed over the course of time. We urge that the final per-pupil figure be indexed to reflect proportional increases in the actual per-pupil expenditure number, adjusted accordingly over time. Mayor and Members of City Council.
Third, we would be remiss if we did not express our concern about the Trinity Elementary School and the Isaac Young Middle School, which are the neighborhood school zones for the Echo Bay development. We urge the City Council to be mindful of what our education infrastructure is able to absorb, in the same way that it considers the impacts of new development on our public works and emergency responder infrastructure.
Finally, the Board hopes we can apply all of our collective experience from this project to improve coordination between the City and the School District on future development initiatives. We would like to work with the City earlier in the planning process, so that each DEIS of the future already will address and accommodate the kinds of concerns we express today. We are encouraged to hear that the School District will be invited to participate in the upcoming development of a new Comprehensive Plan for New Rochelle, and we look forward to being involved substantially in that process from the earliest stages.
We thank you again for the opportunity to present our concerns here. The members of the Board of Education and the School District Administration remain willing and ready to discuss these concerns further as the City Council deems appropriate.