Riverhead taxpayers will head to the polls Tuesday to vote on the school district’s $78.3 million plan for infrastructure repairs and upgrades.
Voters will also be asked to consider a second proposal for a new $7 million gymnasium at the high school. That proposition is contingent upon passage of the $78.3 million bond.
The bond, which would be paid for with taxpayer money over two decades, is down about $45 million from the $123 million proposal voters overwhelmingly rejected in February 2010.
The plan, designed by BBS Architects and Engineers of Patchogue, calls for new classrooms at every school except Phillips Avenue, new science labs at the middle and high schools, heating and ventilation upgrades and other improvements.
The News-Review recently asked superintendent Nancy Carney four questions some well-known members of the community have been asking about the latest plan. Here’s what Ms. Carney had to say.
Q: How do we know the school district will take care of the new facilities so we’re not doing the same thing again in 20 years? — Bruce Tria, president, WRIV 1390-AM radio
A: The district has been taking care of its facilities, and takes that responsibility very seriously, but there comes a time with any structure when day-to-day repairs are no longer cost effective. Taking our roofs, for example, we have patched and patched the roofs, but after 20 or 30 years, the rubber that makes up the roofing materials can no longer be stretched or patched. The roofing material has now outlived its useable life and needs to be totally replaced.
Q: The district reported that its schools are in disrepair. What happened to the money that was budgeted for maintenance in years past? — Hal Lindstrom, Calverton resident and outspoken opponent of the bond
A: As stated above, the money allocated for maintenance in the past has been used for maintenance. However, the work proposed under the bond is work that is beyond standard maintenance. Our boilers are inefficient and ineffective, not because of negligence by the district, but because the technology that drives them is outdated and inefficient. Some of our boilers are so old that replacement parts are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Therefore, replacing these boilers is the only logical option.
Q: Will school construction and renovation provide any work for locals? — Nancy Swett, founder, iloveriverhead.com
A: Public schools are required by New York State law to put construction projects out to bid, meaning that any contractor with the requisite insurance and bonding is free to submit a bid to do the work. The district cannot guarantee or predict which contractors will win the bids, but regardless of the winning bidders, the laborers who perform the work will eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores.
Q: We know that in a declining real estate market when the monthly cost of carrying a home increases, selling prices decrease. Are you concerned that by raising taxes the value of homes in Riverhead will decline even further? — Janet Bidwell, local real estate agent
A: Home values are outside the purview of the school district; they are set solely by the assessors of the town in which the home sits. Real estate agents will tell you that homebuyers with children typically place significant, if not major, importance on the school district when selecting the community they will move to. This bond impacts the perception homebuyers have of our district, which in turn impacts real estate values.
Q: Considering the recent upsurge in school enrollment, especially at the elementary level, will the proposed expansions be sufficient to meet these new needs when all are completed over the next 5 years? Angela DeVito, former school board member
A: Based on demographic studies, the proposed renovations will meet the needs of the district in the future.