Op-Ed:  Baffled by parents’ lack of awareness and concern over rezoning of Chappaqua Crossing

Monday, June 28, 2010
by Gregg Bresner

I am writing today as a resident and parent of two children in our school system and not in my capacity as a member of the Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education.  In looking at the issues that confront our community, I am baffled by the apparent lack of attention to the proposed massive residential development at the Reader’s Digest property (Chappaqua Crossing).

Given how vociferously school parents in this community have expressed concerns regarding changes to class size, student programs, the superintendent selection process etc., I am perplexed and concerned that these same people have not focused on the Reader’s Digest rezoning situation which, in my opinion, represents a very serious and visible threat to class sizes and programs.  It is almost as if this community is ignoring the elephant in the room.

The case here is very simple.  If the development goes forward as planned (the developer has already suggested that the 55-and-over age restriction on Chappaqua Crossing be removed), the education costs of the new children enrolled in the District will likely be borne in large measure through either drastic and deleterious cuts to our current programs, increased class sizes and/or hefty increases in the property taxes of residents outside of Chappaqua Crossing – you and me.

The economics of an education in Chappaqua

The Chappaqua School District will spend approximately $26,400 per student in the 2010 – 2011 school year. The proposed residential development at Chappaqua Crossing is projected to provide an incremental $1.29 million per year – or approximately $4,628 in annual property taxes per condominium unit (there are 278 proposed condominiums in total). Essentially, the first student enrolled per unit will be have to be subsidized to the tune of approximately $22,000 per student by existing New Castle taxpayers ($26,400 per student for each additional student per unit thereafter).
To the extent that more than a total of 50 students enroll from Chappaqua Crossing, current New Castle taxpayers will have to pay approximately $26,400 for each additional student through higher property taxes.  The average number of enrolled students per household in New Castle is approximately 0.7 per household (single family homes are closer to 1.2 per household), which would imply enrollment of 195 to 333 new students from the 278 proposed units at Chappaqua Crossing.  Remember, you also have the dynamic of “empty nesters” wanting to move to Chappaqua Crossing selling their homes to younger families with children.

Assuming the range of 0.7 to 1.2 students per household, an increase in annual property taxes of $3.9 million to $7.5 million (with compounding increases in the future) would be needed to pay for these new students from Chappaqua Crossing.  Keep in mind that this increase is over and above the district’s current fiscal challenges and before considering any costs from the effect of potential over-crowding of the Grafflin and Bell schools, increased busing costs and the costs and time associated with a likely redistricting.

Where will the money come from to fund these new students?

Are we taxpayers willing to have our taxes increased by $3.9 to $7.5 million per year simply to provide investment return to a private landowner that currently provides less than 1% of our school taxes at the Chappaqua Crossing site?  I think it is reasonable to assume that taxpayers will demand school budget savings to offset these increased costs. Given that over 90% of the school budget is allocated to program offerings and people (salaries, benefits, special education, transportation, etc.), it is hard to envision a scenario whereby teacher layoffs, higher class sizes and reduced course offerings would not be needed to offset the higher taxes attributable to new enrollment from Chappaqua Crossing.

This rezoning has

not yet been approved

by the New Castle Town Board.  There is still time to act.

Gregg Bresner is a resident of New Castle and will be serving the third year of his first three-year term on the board of the Chappaqua Central School District this coming school year.

• To see NCNOW’s article on the town and school boards’ joint discussion of this topic one year ago, click here: “Town and school boards put their heads together to prepare for June 23 Chappaqua Crossing hearings,” 6/19/09. 

• To see NCNOW’s article on the two boards’ discussion in October 2009, click here: “Town board and planning board discuss effect of Chappaqua Crossing on schools,” 10/9/09.

• To access NCNOW’s archives containing a list of all articles and letters to the editor on this subject (nearly three years’ worth), click HERE.

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