The Sewanhaka Central High School District $86.6 million bond referendum passed by nearly 2,500 votes last week. Each taxpayer will need to pay an additional $114 per year to support the bond. The referendum will contribute significant upgrades and renovations to the district’s five schools and two vocational buildings.
A $99.5 million bond last December failed by 293 votes. District reps say the construction work would not begin until summer 2015. Forty-seven percent of the bond is covered by New York State aid.
“When you have a majority [vote for bond and budget], these are two separate [things], it shows the communities understood the need,” District Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said. “[The voters] knew the upgrades were needed.”
The bond passed 5,732-3,253, with four local elementary school districts casting ballots on the referendum. The New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District approved the bond 981-760, while the Floral Park-Bellerose School District affirmed at 1,557-969. The Franklin
Square and Elmont school districts approved the repairs at 1,668-766 and 1,526-758, respectively.
“I’m very happy for our students, staff and communities,” school board president Dave Fowler said. “This is going to enable us to do very necessary capital repairs and improvements, hopefully without having to cut into student programs. It’s needed in a tax levy cap world. It’s something that is going to let us bring the schools up to the standards they should be.”
If the bond would have failed again, district officials say, Sewanhaka may have faced possible program and staff cuts. Important capital projects may have been put into the operating budget.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to preserve the programs that are the heart of this district,” Fowler stated. “My concern with [if the bond failed], having to take money from the general fund to do work…would’ve been devastating to our budgets.”
Ferrie indicated that district outreach through presentations and meetings made a difference this time around.
“There had to be an educational process [with the bond] the first time out,” he said. “We had to continue that process this time. The board listened, the public listened and the bond was approved.”
Technology infrastructure and security upgrades will take place at all five schools as well as new roofs. New Hyde Park Memorial High School will receive $10.8 million in renovations, including new science and music rooms, renovated parking lots, revamped auditorium as well as door replacements. New wrestling and fitness rooms, guidance offices and a roof are also planned.
“I’m very happy with the results and I thank everyone who was involved,” said Joan Romagnoli, a New Hyde Park representative on the Sewanhaka board.
Sewanhaka High School is slated for $28 million in renovations, including a new cafeteria, gymnasium, art rooms and a restored auditorium. It could also receive new locker rooms and a relocated and renovated library.
“The hard work still lies ahead,” said Ferrie.
Floral Park Memorial High School will gain $18.4 million in upgrades and renovations. The school would gain an expanded auditorium and music rooms, new heating and ventilation systems and masonry restorations.
“For me personally, who had children go through Floral Park Memorial High School…it always bothered me that we couldn’t have a district music festival there,” said Fowler, on what he’s looking forward to with the bond.”
Elmont Memorial High School’s $14.7 million includes a new full-size gym, renovated art rooms, tennis courts and windows. Other updates include new masonry, parking and driveway areas.
H. Frank Carey High School ($12.6 million) needs upgrades to its auditorium, lockers, doors and exit lights. Additional work includes a refinished gym floor, fitness rooms, tennis courts and weight rooms.
The district will also install one synthetic turf field at each high school. Field maintenance and upgrades are also scheduled for the Alva T. Stanforth athletic fields ($1.54 million).
School Budget Passes
Along with the bond, voters approved the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s $175.3 million budget last week, 6,103-2,860. Franklin Square had the highest approval vote, topping off at 1,735-693. Elmont certified its vote at 1,673-632 while Floral Park-Bellerose and
New Hyde Park Garden City Park totaled 1,609-868 and 1,086-667, respectively.
The budget includes a $2.9 million reduction in spending, with cuts including 13 teaching positions. These teacher cuts were achieved through retirements, 1.5 clerical positions, and cutting 12 teaching assistants.
The total tax levy for 2014-15 is at $135.9 million, an increase of $2.08 million from last year.