VVS voters deny $41.8M capital project
The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District’s proposed $41,850,000 capital project was voted down 590-527 by district residents Tuesday.
VVS voters deny $41.8M capital project
VERONA — The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District’s proposed $41,850,000 capital project was voted down 590-527 by district residents Tuesday.
“The result of any public vote represents the will of the community,” district Superintendent Martha Group said.
“Our responsibility with respect to school votes is to do our best to put forth a proposal that represents the entire community, while being sensitive to the financial capacity of the community to support its priorities,” Group said.
The capital project proposal focused on the key areas of safety and security, energy and infrastructure, creating welcoming community spaces and enabling future ready learners, according to Sondra Whalen, the director of Student Programs and Communications.
Whalen said New York State Building Aid would have reimbursed VVS for 89.6% of the total project cost, making the expected reimbursement $37,497,600 of the $41,850,000 proposed amount. If approved, the work was expected to begin in the 2024-2025 school year.
Leading up to voting day, several signs asking voters to vote against the project had been placed throughout the area, including a large one along the much-traveled Route 365 in Verona.
There were also social media posts from a group of Verona residents asking their neighbors to vote “no” against the project.
A post to Verona residents specifically cited the recent Sherrill-Kenwood Free Library tax vote, where Verona and Vernon residents also pay a share of the Sherrill library tax, as a motivator to vote against the capital project.
Greg Iannello was one of the three Verona residents who signed that message and offered his telephone number to call for additional information.
“We are tired of being taken advantage of — we felt we were treated unfairly in the library vote and didn’t get a fair deal there from the school and the superintendent,” Iannello explained. “We felt they pretty much took advantage of us. We have asked the school and library several times for a fair revote and have been denied every time.”
“We are certainly aware of the ongoing misunderstanding and confusion regarding the library vote,” Group said. “Those leading the campaign made clear to district officials and community members their personal response would include efforts to ensure the defeat of the 2024 proposed facilities project and future VVS budget proposals.”
Group said the preliminary exit polls showed that a significant portion of the community did not feel fairly represented in that library tax vote. She said they have been working to provide accurate information to the public and will continue to work to bring the community back together and work in the best interest of the children.
Iannello said he felt there was a lot of irresponsible spending in the proposal, including many items without costs attached to them. if they had cut out some of the “luxuries” in the proposal it “would have passed right away,” he said.
“We need to put safety and building maintenance before the luxury stuff,” Iannello explained. “There is a time to do that and that is when the economy is good. They have to get their priorities straight. Boiler repairs (in this capital project proposal) should have come before the turf field (included in the previous capital project that was approved).”
Group said the proposed facilities project is a significant body of work that was completed by a large stakeholder group from across the entire VVS community. She said she is grateful to each of them for the countless hours of time each volunteered in the development of the project.
That work will be used by the VVS Board of Education to move forward in determining how best to care for the community’s facilities and meet the needs of VVS’ students, both now and into the future.
The exit surveys will be used to make an informed decision on the district’s next steps, Group said, adding her thanks to everyone who answered that survey.
“Those results will help us to understand where our facilities plan fell short and help us create a new plan that will resonate with our entire community,” Group said. “We encourage all individuals to contact the school, attend public meetings, visit the district website and participate in all efforts to serve all students across the VVS community.”
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