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When school-bond votes disrespect taxpayers

North Babylon residents approved a $69 million bond

North Babylon residents approved a $69 million bond issue Dec. 5, 2017, to finance classroom renovations, sports fields and other improvements. Above, North Babylon High School. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

’Tis the season.

For school bond votes, that is. In the last month or so, five Long Island school districts have held bond votes, seven in the last two months. We have no quibble with the proposals themselves. It’s the timing that’s upsetting.

Holding votes at this time of year disrespects taxpayers who aren’t paying attention but who will end up paying for these multimillion-dollar proposals. That’s also true earlier in the fall when votes are not scheduled for Election Day but are overshadowed by it.

Bond votes should be held on the third Tuesday in May, when state law requires that all residents vote on school district budgets. The law should be amended to mandate bond votes that day, too, to guarantee higher participation.

In bond votes held since mid-October, Lindenhurst saw a 51 percent drop in turnout from its May budget vote, Longwood was 42 percent lower, Hicksville 30 percent, Elwood 23 percent and North Babylon 6 percent.

Turnouts can be high when proposals are controversial, as was the case earlier this month when voting in Uniondale more than doubled on a whopping $200 million bond, and in Port Jefferson, where turnout quadrupled amid uncertainty about future taxes received from the local power plant. But in Great Neck, after voters rejected a bond last February, more than two-and-a-half times as many voted on a revamped proposal held in conjunction with the May budget vote. Next up: Massapequa, which is presenting two bonds totaling $32.8 million for a vote on Jan. 23, in the dead of winter.

Whether school districts will be as eager to present bonding proposals to taxpayers is uncertain in the wake of the tax-cut bill passed recently in Washington. But the principle remains the same. Taxpayers have a right to know all at once how much they’re being asked to pay for the education of their district’s children. One date, one vote. Change the law. — The editorial board