We, the Floral Park-Bellerose Board of Education, would like to comment on the letter from Mr. Jim Joinnides, which appeared in your Nov. 26, 2010 edition.
His accusations, leveled at the Board of Education, are misleading and erroneous. One can only wonder what motivates Mr. Joinnides. He claims it is interest and concern yet he actively lobbied against the bond issue while proclaiming that the capital improvements were necessary. Ironically, he stated that all of the capital improvements could not be achieved through an ESCO. If his concerns are that he “wants to do what I can to make sure our community and our schools are well maintained and energy efficient” why has he not attended any board meetings over the past several years other than recently? Why has he not voted in any school budget vote, for at least 10 years, until this bond referendum? It is public record that he only registered prior to the bond vote.
The Board of Education along with the administration has done its homework. This bond proposal was discussed by the Board of Education for more than a year. Prior to any decisions being presented to the community, the board met with architects, attorneys, bond counsel as well as New York Power Authority representatives (an approved NYS ESCO). The scope of the bond was based on our five-year capital plan and focused on health and safety and capital asset preservation. The timing of the bond and amount corresponded with the retiring of all district bond debt and, therefore, the impact was budget neutral. Please refer to the 2010-11 Budget/Budget Brochure links on our website www.floralpark. k12.ny.us for last year’s budget as it clearly addresses the possible bond referendum. Mr. Joinnides claims the bond was a “transparent effort to disguise lack of planning.” A bond referendum prior to this would have significantly raised taxes. In addition, paying for capital projects in a single year would have a major impact on the tax levy. This is something Mr. Joinnides fails to mention but an issue that the board has always kept at the forefront when planning.
In addition, although we are presently working with the New York Power Authority for lighting and window replacement along with other possible energy-saving improvements, we decided it would not be feasible or responsible to sign on “wholesale” with an ESCO. Although Mr. Joinnides claims that many school districts are “going with ESCOs,” we have received inconsistent information regarding this contention. Most of the savings are found in upgrading lighting plans, which we are already in the planning stage of doing. It is a fact that not every school district will achieve the same savings and there are often hidden costs attached. Savings directly correlate with the size of the project; being a three building district instead of a nine building district (like Garden City), will in all likelihood correspond with significantly less savings. Furthermore, the utilization of an energy performance contract is a long process, which would have made boiler replacement in the summer of 2011 impossible. One district stated that they negotiated with its ESCO for about a year before an agreement was completed.
The Board of Education is responsible for obtaining information and making our decisions based on that information. Each of us as individuals, and as a group, take this responsibility seriously. The easier choice would have been to go solely with an ESCO. It does not require voter approval and is mainly administered by outside agencies. However, as a board of education, we are charged – by voting Floral Park and Bellerose citizens — with choosing what may be the more difficult “right” instead of the easier “wrong” when making any decision.
We are charged with overseeing not only the educational well-being of 1,600 plus students but for respecting district assets on behalf of our taxpayers (of whom we are also included), while observing state education law, regulations as well as state mandates. We must consider all aspects of a matter, not just the one we favor. Although the bond defeat was a missed opportunity for this District and its residents, we as a board will continue to work and advocate for our school community and the children of the District whom we serve.
Board of Education
Floral Park-Bellerose School District