SWR putting $33M bond proposal, $15M proposition on ballot

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10/12/2014 8:00 AM |
The Shoreham-Wading River tennis courts have been condemned. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Upgrading the condemned tennis courts are included in the capital improvement proposal residents will vote on Dec. 9. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

Shoreham-Wading River School District residents will go to the polls Dec. 9 to vote on two capital improvement referendums — one to issue a $33.6 million bond, the other to offset construction costs with $15 million in reserves.

After a nearly two-and-a-half hour discussion at Thursday’s school board meeting, trustees approved by a 6-0 vote to place both referendums totalling about $48 million on the ballot. Sean Beran was absent.

If voters approve the bond, the average homeowner will pay about $30 extra per month in property taxes starting in four years when the first bond payment is due, said Glen Arcuri, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. He added those estimates are calculated for a homeowner with a “$400,000 full-value property” and includes building aid the state typically offers school districts that include certain projects like asbestos remediation in a construction proposal.

The first proposition residents will be asked to vote on is to allow the district to use $15 million in reserves, known as “prior year state aid,” for construction projects a committee of school officials, consultants and community members have recently identified as critical, such as roofing and constructing bus loops.

The second referendum is for a $33 million bond proposal to pay for several other repairs and upgrades to the district’s aging infrastructure, including windows and reconstructing the tennis courts.

The bond committee was formed in April shortly after the crumbling tennis courts were closed and deemed hazardous. The tennis teams now play home matches at Longwood Middle School.

The school board also decided Thursday to disband the bond committee after trustee Robert Rose, who created the volunteer group and served as its chairman, said the school district’s attorneys informed him that state law prohibits committee members from advocating for the proposal. Disbanding the group will now allow those residents who served on the committee to promote the bond project, he said.

After thanking residents for volunteering on the committee, Mr. Rose said he believes now is the time to let voters decide on the proposal.

“The district is at a crossroads,” he said. “We need to do this work. It’s important to the district. It’s important to the kids. It’s important to the community.”

Nearly $13 million of the total bond would go toward creating new space at the middle school and both elementary schools. That construction would allow the district to get rid of portable classrooms — some of which have been used by the district for nearly 25 years. A kitchen that would service students across the district was also proposed for the middle school.

Other improvements, according to an Oct. 1 presentation, include: electrical, doors, windows, ceilings, flooring, security, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, lockers, bleachers/gym equipment and technology.

In October 2012, residents approved a $1.6 million proposition to upgrade the district’s computer systems and make resurfacing repairs to the high school track using prior year state aid. The following spring, residents also approved using $3.9 million from prior year state aid funds for roof repairs and to build science labs.

District officials said Shoreham-Wading River voters have never passed a bond. The most recent failed attempt was a $39 million proposal to fix only the middle school in 2009.

Trustee Jack Costas said he believed placing a proposition on the ballot to use reserves will not only lower expenses associated with the bond, but it will also show voters the district is being responsible by offsetting the cost with savings.

“We need community support for not only the bond, but to pass budgets necessary to continue to provide programs,” he said. “Otherwise we’ll have a beautiful music room — with no leaks — and no music program.”

For a breakdown of the expenses and an outline of the bond committee’s findings, visit the district’s website.

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