SWR opens up bond fair for public as supporters plan next move

12/11/2014 1:00 PM |
(Credit: Paul Squire)

Supporters of the Shoreham-Wading River school bond review a map of where to place signs around the district. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Sets of tables and chairs were arranged in the Miller Avenue Elementary School gym Tuesday night, right next to a row of display boards showing overhead construction plans with alterations highlighted in yellow and green.

At the tables sat Shoreham-Wading River School District administrators and school board members, ready to answer questions about the district’s proposed $48.5 million plan to refit and repair district schools. 

The fair was attended mostly by members of the school’s bond committee, who said the slight attendance wasn’t representative of the community’s engagement with the bond vote coming next month.

Other than the dozen or so committee members, only about 10 residents appeared for the district’s hour-long “bond fair” and the walk-through of Miller Avenue school that accompanied it.

Alisa McMorris, co-president of the district’s Parent Teacher Association council and a bond committee member, said the committee had tried to spread the word about the bond fair. She said those she spoke to already intended to vote “yes” on the proposal, which would pay for additional classroom space and renovations to district buildings and facilities like roofing and unsafe tennis courts.

The bond committee consists of community members and administrators who volunteered when the school board created the committee this spring.

Ms. McMorris also said word was spreading through social media, citing a video promoting the bond as a “revival” of Shoreham-Wading River’s pride in their buildings. The bond committee was also planning to build further support Tuesday night, pulling out a map of the district tagged with Post-it strips where signs could be strategically placed.

Residents who attended the bond fair seemed to be focused mostly on the money: where it was coming from, who came up with the project’s price tag and where the funds would be going.

Residents will vote Jan. 13 on the $48.5 million districtwide construction project, which involves repairs at all operating district schools. About $15 million of that total would be paid for through district reserves, specifically money given to the district by the state for previously unissued state aid. The bond the district is proposing would cover the remaining $33.5 million.

Since the project is expected to qualify for future building aid from the state, Superintendent Steven Cohen estimates the district will receive about $16 million parceled over the course of several future fiscal years. However, the amount the district would receive annually in promised funds, and over how long a period, remain unclear.

Those spending plans are estimates based on previous bond projects in other districts, board members have said. They added Tuesday night that money left over from the bond project would be spent on further repairs around the district based on the bond committee’s previous recommendations.

Brian and Barbara Richter, whose two children graduated from SWR years ago, were among the non-committee members who attended the fair. They said they wanted more information about the repairs planned around the district, especially those at the now-unusable tennis courts.

“We were aghast at the condition of the schools,” Mr. Richter said in an interview. “It’s a shame what’s happened here.”

After speaking with school board president William McGrath, the couple said they planned to support the bond.

“They’re fixing up the schools,” Mr. Richter said. “It’s going to raise the property values.”

[email protected]