NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In a stunning rebuke, New Rochelle voters narrowly rejected a proposed $50 mm school bond on Tuesday night.
With 13 affidavit votes still to be counted, the unofficial vote count was 1,474 "No" votes and 1,445 "Yes" votes, a margin of just 35 votes (1%) out 2,919 votes cast. The vote totals will be made official at a Special Board of Education meeting at City Hall on Wednesday December 16th at 7:00 p.m.
Oppositon to the proposed school bond was organized by ReformFirst, a group of parents and taxpayers who offered a Reform platform based on 8 specific proposed reforms: 1. Make public all reports on school building conditions. 2. Explain the failure to bond in 2014-15, as was recommended in July 2014. 3. Replace Aramark and recruit a facilities management team that works directly for the district. 4. Reassign personnel who authorized payment for many millions in fraudulent invoices. 5. Create the position of Corporation Counsel, a full-time attorney for the Board of Education. 6. Make all investigative files available to the U.S. Department of Justice. 7. Audit all capital construction invoices for the past decade, seek to recoup improper charges. and 8. Reduce the $10mm in excessive administrative costs in the proposed bond.
ReformFirst proponents offered that if the proposed changes were made or at least well underway, by next Spring, the group would support a revised bond proposal submitted to voters at the next school budget vote on May 17, 2016. They argued that without these changes, there was no good reason to trust the same people who brought about the current state of disrepair in the public schools with more taxpayer money.
It remains to be seen whether the school board will attempt to work with the grassroots organization or oppose it by resubmittubg the same bond proposal to voters in the coming months and attempt to rally greater support the next time, a high risk strategy that could jeopoardize both the bond and the 2016-17 school budget.
Voter turnout was low at 7% (2,919 voters out of 41,481 registered voters) but higher than the 2,200 voters who turned out for the last school election in May 2015.
The votes were tallied in a second floor conference room at 515 North Avenue. Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White tallied the votes on a spreadsheet projected onto a screen as a handful of school officials and residents watched the referendum results unfold.
A half hour after the polls closed, the "No" vote led by 54 votes with two polling locations not reporting, New Rochelle High School and Barnard School. As the minutes ticked by a sense of foreboding came over the room. School Board members whispered nervously. The delay seemed interminable.
A clerk entered the room to deliver results for both schools to Dr. Osborne who keyed in the vote totals. Barnard School with 204 "Yes", 155 "No" and New Rochelle High School with 191 "Yes" 211 "No", a swing of 29 "Yes" votes, not enough to overcome the "Yes" vote deficit. The bond failed.
6 Election Districts votes "Yes" and 7 votes "No".
YES - 6
- Barnard School
- Martin Luther King Center
- Albert Leonard MS
- Daniel Webster School
- Ward School
- 570 Fifth Avenue
NO - 7
- Columbus School
- Davis School
- Jefferson School
- New Rochelle High School
- Trinity School
- Isaac E. Young MS
- Holy Name School
The three most interesting election districts were Davis School, Holy Name School and New Rochelle High School. Davis, which typically gives large margins to the District had relatively high turnout and narrowly voted against the proposed bond. At Holy Name School which typically opposes the District, the "No" vote swamped the "Yes" vote by a more than 3:1 margin. New Rochelle High School is the swing district which can go either way from election to election. There, the "No" vote pulled out what proved to be the decisive margin of 20 votes.
The vote total by Election District break down as follows:
SED # 1 – Henry Barnard School 204 Yes 155 No
SED # 2 – Columbus School 34 Yes 75 No
SED # 3 – George M. Davis 201 Yes 205 No
SED # 4 – Jefferson School 95 Yes 154 No
SED # 5 – Martin Luther King Center 87 Yes 60 No
SED # 6 – New Rochelle High School 191 Yes 211 No
SED # 7 – Trinity School 67 Yes 84 No
SED # 8 – Albert Leonard MS 175 Yes 75 No
SED # 9 – Daniel Webster School 135 Yes 101 No
SED #10 – Isaac E. Young MS 86 Yes 91 No
SED #11 – Holy Name School 49 Yes 177 No
SED #12 – Ward School 106 Yes 90 No
SED #13 – 570 Fifth Avenue 14 Yes 3 No