Riverhead schools sets bond for Oct. 11; plan includes second proposition for gym

Riverhead High School

Taxpayers who live within the Riverhead School District will be asked to vote Oct. 11 on a $78.3 million bond proposal for infrastructure upgrades at district buildings and grounds.

Residents will also be asked to consider a second proposition to build a $7 million gymnasium at Riverhead High School.

After some disagreement among board members on whether or not to include a new gym in the bond proposal, the school board on Tuesday night unanimously approved putting both measures — which would include new classroom, lavatory, kitchen and cafeteria spaces, new roofs and windows as well as interior renovations at district schools — up for vote.

The $78 million plan is the final recommendation of the Community Partnership for Revitalization team, which was made up of community members and district employees. The committee had met twice a month since last October to put together the proposal.

“The CPR team worked very hard to put forth a proposal that is what the district needs with nothing extra,” superintendent Nancy Carney said Friday.

Under the $78 million plan presented, a taxpayer who lives in Riverhead Town and owns a median-priced home would pay on average $185 extra per year for 20 years, according to district officials.

A Riverhead Town homeowner whose house is worth about $276,000 would pay an extra $39.47 for the 2013-14 school year, the year residents would start paying the bond if it were approved by voters, according to numbers Ms. Carney presented earlier this year.

That amount would increase to $210.48 in 2018 and gradually decrease over time. That same homeowner would pay an average of an additional $25 per year if proposition two were also approved.

The plans are now available for review in the school district clerk’s office.

If proposition one is approved, the district will be eligible for an estimated $26 million in state aid over the course of payment, according to a copy of the plans. Proposition two is not eligible for any state aid.

School board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse described including the second proposition for district residents as a “win-win,” since the public will ultimately decide whether or not Riverhead needs the additional gym space.

“The infrastructure is an absolute necessity,” she said, adding the second proposal is contingent on the passing of the first. She noted that anyone in favor of adding gym space would have to vote in favor of the $78 million plan.

Representatives from BBS Architects and Engineers, the firm that designed the plans, had previously said a second gymnasium would cost about $4.5 million to construct. The $7 million project includes “furnishings, equipment, machinery, apparatus … and demolition and other work required in connection” with the project, the agenda states.

“There were a number of people on the board that felt we needed additional gym space,” Ms. Carney said in a recent interview.

Board vice president Greg Meyer and board members Jeff Falisi and Timothy Griffing Jr. have all said they would like to see additional gym space included in the plan.

The plan calls for new construction at all district schools except Phillips Avenue Elementary School.  The total breakdown of the plan is as follows: $3.8 million for upgrades at Aquebogue Elementary School; $4 million for upgrades at Phillips Avenue Elementary School; $5.7 million for upgrades at Riley Avenue Elementary School; $7.8 million for upgrades at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School; $7.9 million for upgrades at Pulaski Street School; $15.4 million for upgrades at Riverhead Middle School; $32.1 million for upgrades at Riverhead High School; and $1.6 million for upgrades at the main campus site.

School district watchdog Laurie Downs of Riverhead was the only community member to speak about the bond at Tuesday’s sparsely attended meeting. She said she felt the board had been rushed through the plan without enough public discussion.

“I don’t think the public had enough time for input,” she said. “I think by doing this you’re hurting yourselves.”

Voting will be held at Riley Avenue Elementary School, Phillips Avenue Elementary School, Aquebogue Elementary School and Riverhead High School.
Ms. Carney said she and the board will be presenting the plan to civic organizations and other community groups this fall. Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said after the meeting the campaign would be a “full-on PR blitz.”

The superintendent added that the district will be able to use $3 million from an emergency repair fund to offset the cost of the bond, bringing the amount the district would have to borrow down to $75.3 million.

If approved by voters, the bond would be paid off with taxpayer money over a 20-year period.

A $122 million plan for district improvements, which included turning the Roanoke Avenue School into an administration building, was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in 2010.

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