DDTC Position Statement-RSD13 Referendum, February 8th, 2022
The Durham Democratic Town Committee (DDTC) recommends that Durham residents vote “NO” on the RSD13 Referendum on February 8th, 2022 to approve spending $7,500,000 for renovations and improvements to John Lyman Elementary School. This recommendation stems from 1) consideration of the most effective use of taxpayer dollars, 2) a desire to maintain the long-term viability of a diverse range of school programs and activities, and 3) a commitment to the continuation of optimal teacher/student ratios within the school district. The DDTC strongly believes that people, not buildings, are what are most important to maintaining an outstanding educational environment. What follows provides some additional background information on this recommendation.
Based on projected savings of approximately $1,000,000/year the previous Board of Education (BoE) voted unanimously to move forward with the closure of John Lyman School. Because a school closing is viewed as a change to the regionalization plan, it must be approved by both towns. On November 2, 2021, the RSD13 referendum to close Lyman did not pass, though Durham residents voted 2 to 1 to close the school. In Middlefield, residents voted to keep the school open by only a small margin. The combined town vote totals were approximately 3 to 2 in favor of closing Lyman. Failure to pass the referendum subsequently forced the BoE to consider long-needed capital improvements to Lyman.
Current BoE estimates indicate that Lyman requires $7,500,000 in renovations and improvements to remain open for the foreseeable future. Principal and interest payments on this $7.5M bond as well as the annual operating expenses for Lyman will be part of the RSD13 budget moving forward. These increased costs will either be transferred onto taxpayers, resulting in an even higher per-pupil expenditure, or will necessitate severe cuts in other areas within the school budget. While the plan to close Lyman School was not without additional expense in renovations and repairs to Brewster and Memorial Schools (estimated costs $2,000,000 - $5,000,000), these costs would have been offset by savings from the increased operational efficiency of a school closure and consolidation of resources.
The DDTC, thus, cannot support spending $7,500,000 plus all the various operating expenses each year to keep Lyman open and operating when the past RSD13 BoE, after considerable study and deliberation, has determined that it no longer needs the facility and has recommended that it be closed. The DDTC believes that closing Lyman remains the best option and that the BoE and two towns should continue to pursue a mutually beneficial situation that improves RSD13’s operational efficiency and excellent education environment.
Vote “No” on February 8th!