Two school districts in Nassau County will ask residents this week to approve bond proposals that, if passed, would lead to sweeping renovations and upgrades of school playgrounds, buildings and other capital projects.
Wantagh residents will vote Dec. 6 at the district’s three elementary schools to approve a more than $69.5 million bond referendum that has been broken into three separate parts. Voters go to the polls from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
North Bellmore residents will vote Dec. 8 at Newbridge Road School to approve a more than $39 million bond referendum. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In Wantagh, the proposed bond will be presented as three propositions, but the first proposition must pass before the other two could be approved.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Two school districts in Nassau County will ask residents this week to approve bond referendums.
- Wantagh residents will vote Dec. 6 at the district’s three elementary schools to approve a more than $69.5 million bond referendum that has been broken into three separate parts. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- North Bellmore residents will vote Dec. 8 at Newbridge Road School to approve a more than $39 million bond referendum. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The first proposition addresses core infrastructure districtwide, replacing components that are original or haven’t been replaced in decades, such as windows and unit ventilators. It includes upgrades to electrical, central heating and air conditioning for all instructional spaces. The proposal — at more than $39 million — is budget neutral, meaning it will not have an impact on local taxes.
The second proposition focuses on enhancing areas of play and creativity, including upgrades to the athletic fields at the secondary campus, which includes the middle and high schools and Forest Lake Elementary School; a complete renovation of districtwide auditoriums, and new playground equipment for all three elementary schools. District officials estimate the $16 million proposition, if approved, would cost the average homeowner an additional $11 per month.
The third proposition proposes a renovation of the library media center and cafeteria at Wantagh High School; creation of outdoor eating spaces for the middle and high school; kitchen replacements at each elementary school, and districtwide bathroom renovations. This proposition, at $14 million, would cost the average homeowner an additional $9 a month.
The projects were part of a strategic five-year plan, Superintendent John McNamara said. The timing is right to offer a bond referendum, he said, because the district has some existing debt service coming off the books for projects from about 15 years ago.
“When we did our facilities plan about five years ago, we targeted this point in time,” he said.
The average age of the buildings in the district, which has about 2,800 students, is about 65 years old. A district committee prioritized projects in Wantagh, and the school board wanted to offer one budget-neutral option to residents, McNamara said.
If approved, some of the initial work could begin in the summer of 2023, with the bulk being done in summer of 2024.
“And we’re projecting that it would take about five years from bond approval to the completion of the work, so we’re projecting out to about 2028,” he said. “The conversation we hear in the community is, ‘Why do it now? Why not wait?’ It’s just one of those things that the longer you wait to put it out for consideration … it just continues to push it further down the road.”
In North Bellmore, a more than $39 million bond would provide for projects including districtwide upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as electrical systems; ADA elevator installations at John G. Dinkelmeyer and Saw Mill Road elementary schools, and playground improvements at all six elementary schools. The elementary district serves about 2,100 students in grades K-6.
Additional projects would focus on areas noted in a Building Conditions Survey, including chimney reconstruction, skylight replacement and door replacement in district buildings.
If approved, the average homeowner would pay $16.47 more a month. That figure would decline in 2028-29, when existing debt service is retired, to $13.69 per month.
“Our buildings are aging, ranging from 65 to nearly 100 years old,” Superintendent Marie Testa said. Overhauling the district’s HVAC systems will “guarantee clean, fresh air and adequate filtration, as well as the ability to properly regulate temperature and indoor air quality,” she said. It also will be more cost-effective and energy efficient.
The upgraded playgrounds would be open to community residents when school is not in session.
District officials said that, if approved, work could start in the summer of 2023 and completed by 2025, but that could extend to 2026 depending on costs and other construction factors.
Joie Tyrrell is a Long Island native and covers education for Newsday, where she has worked since 1998.