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School Board Holding Referendum on Capital Projects

Much Needed School Building Repairs Will Not Impact Taxpayers

The Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education is set to hold a referendum on Feb. 14 seeking approval for a $17,184, 085 capital projects proposal. The funds, which will have no impact on the taxpayers, are to be used for much needed work on the school district’s buildings. Capital projects include renovations, repairs, and improvements to what was described as the school district’s “aging buildings and grounds.”

The total cost of all of the proposed capital projects will be funded fully from the school district’s unassigned fund balance. The Board of Education stated that they have determined that this is the “appropriate time to use the unassigned fund balance to finance these needed projects.”

Use of the unassigned fund balance that would be used to finance these capital improvements will not result in an increase to the real property tax levy. The unassigned fund balance is that part of the fund balance that has accumulated from three sources: prior years’ revenues over expenditures; net transfers to reserves; and appropriation for the subsequent year’s budget. The district is proud that “conservative budgeting practices, careful spending, and favorable economic circumstances have resulted in the unassigned fund balance.”

Speaking at the Dec. 12 Board of Education public action meeting, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan stated that, at this time, “we must pay attention” to the “aging infrastructure” of the district’s schools as the disrepair could affect the educational programs.

Proposed capital improvement projects were developed by a survey conducted by architects and engineers, along with recommendations from the school district’s staff and from the public. Projects include district improvements to expand and enhance generator coverage, wire time-clock connectivity, technology equipment upgrades, improvements, and purchases.

Also addressed by the proposed project list is auditorium improvements including lighting and acoustical at North High School, South High School, and the Saddle Rock Elementary School.

Also at the Saddle Rock School, there would be repairs to the wall on the west side to stop water penetration.

Athletic improvements will address renovating the athletic fields and running track at the North High School/North Middle School track and at South High School. Also, there will be improvements at the basketball courts and tennis courts at South Middle School.

Also at North Middle School, there would be masonry work and pointing, as well as incinerator removal. The bathrooms would be renovated and the stairwells repaired.

At the Lakeville Elementary School there would be a refurbishment of the parking lot, as well as replacement of the roof and the boiler/climate control/steam traps.

Space would be renovated at the Parkville School.

For the South High School/South Middle School campus, there would be reconstruction of the Lakeville Road walkway along the west side.

At the Cumberland Adult Center there would be replacement of the boiler/climate control/steam trap and the roof.

Both Dr. Dolan and John Powell, assistant superintendent for business, emphasized that these necessary repairs can all be completed at no cost to the taxpayers due to careful and very prudent fiscal planning on the part of the school board and the school district’s administration.

If not approved, according to school district officials, the lack of being able to implement the capital projects could have some impact on the schools. There could be potential interruption of education in the event that buildings and/or athletic fields would have to be closed or classes or events rescheduled due to health and safety issues. There could be increased costs as a result of purchases being made on an emergency basis without the benefit of planning and the time to obtain the lowest prices and fees through the public bidding of public work contracts. Also, there is the continued inability to host certain athletic events, since athletic facilities in the school district are not adequate for some interscholastic sports competitions.

School district officials have also stated that without the ability to implement the required capital projects, there result would be a delay of capital projects start and completion dates if State Education Department approval is not obtained for projects to be done during the summer of 2012 when buildings are less populated and disruptions to programs are minimal.

Mr. Powell also noted that these capital improvement projects would qualify for the State Building Act, where the district would receive 10 percent of approved constructions costs, “which will be used as a revenue source in future years.”

Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz noted that address the aging infrastructure was actually part of last year’s school board goals and was listed as a goal again for this year. “This is our gift to the Great Neck community,” Ms. Berkowitz said.

Public hearings will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 8:30 p.m., at Great Neck North High School, 35 Polo Road, and on Monday, Feb. 6, at 8:30 p.m., at the Cumberland Adult Center, 30 Cumberland Avenue. The vote is Tuesday, Feb. 14; all qualified residents of the Great Neck Public School District are eligible to vote.