The $38.5 million bond issue being proposed by the Farmingdale School District is not only sorely needed, it is educationally and financially sound.
The measure would fund added classrooms needed to alleviate overcrowding due to this decade's steady enrollment boom, and address the population growth that is expected to persist for the next five to six years. It is well-known that smaller class size makes an invaluable difference in students' educational careers, because it allows greater individual attention, inspiring greater understanding and responsiveness on the part of students.
The bond would also provide space for progressive programs needed to keep Farmingdale students competitive with those in other districts. These include full-day kindergarten, which would give youngsters a jump-start on literacy, and the move of the sixth graders to Howitt, which would afford them the enrichment needed to prepare for the new state eighth grade assessments, and later, the all-Regents high school graduation requirements.
The measure also funds district-wide renovations which are crucial to bringing the district's schools, which were built in the post-World War II era, into the 21st century. Upgrades that would allow the district to install new computers would help students acquire the job skills that are demanded in an economy that is increasingly reliant on technology, and increasingly complex. Students must get on the path to getting these skills at an early age, or they will be left behind.
We recognize the financial strains that Farmingdale's primarily middle-class residents face, due to annually increasing taxes and other costs of living, and thus the hesitation that some may feel about borrowing millions of dollars. But the proposed bond issue is a well-thought out, sound financial initiative widely employed by school districts as a way of making needed improvements that cannot be afforded out-of-pocket. And, because it comes at the right time, it would have a relatively low yearly tax impact.
Spurred by this year's all-time high in state building aid - close to 60 percent - and a low interest rate, many districts throughout Long Island and New York are taking advantage of this method for overhauling their outdated schools. Farmingdale should not miss the boat on this unprecedented state aid incentive, which is a cue to build now, and is expected to decrease if not grabbed this year. Considering the state aid, the annual tax increase associated with the bond issue, which would be repaid over 20 years, would be about $89.40 for the average home assessed at $6,000 in the Town of Oyster Bay and $4,051 in the Town of Babylon. We view these payments as an investment into the long-term educational viability of Farmingdale.
Education is more costly today than when this community was first suburbanized, because there is a higher demand for it, and it has become more expansive and more complex to enable students to survive in an increasingly competitive job market. Farmingdale must move forward with these trends, not cling to the past. Residents should take upon themselves the responsibility of getting out to vote for the bond, and ensuring that it is passed. Not doing so would be a true loss for today's generation of local youngsters, for generations to come, and for the community.