Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:00
The Sewanhaka Central High School District is considering new options to renovate and repair its five high schools, two vocational buildings and sports fields. School reps said talks have occurred, but nothing is official yet.
The district’s 20 to 30 member ad hoc committee, which was formed in October of 2012 to assess school revamps, has reconvened, according to school board president Dave Fowler. However, no formal presentation has been made to the board. The committee
will meet again on Tuesday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in Sewanhaka High School.
Fowler indicated that the district asked the committee to “work quickly” so they can consider holding the vote on Election Day in May, rather than as a special election. He cited extra costs the district would incur with a separate vote.
“It’s under discussion but everything is preliminary at this point,” said Fowler. “They are discussing different options. We’re hopeful that something gets going. At this point, there is nothing definitive.”
According to documents obtained by the New Hyde Park Illustrated News, three options are up for discussion, the first being a vote on the original bond for a second time. The second and third options would decrease the bond issue to $84,277,091 in one case or $87,029,591 in another.
“The board has not made a final determination in terms of the scope or the amount of the proposed referendum or when it would go out to vote,” District Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said.
These plans would represent significant construction concessions, but could include a $18,750,000 option to build a field house and indoor pool. The district has, in the past, used the Nassau Aquatic Center as its pool for events.
“Before the first bond, there were people who were looking to see if we could get a pool,” Fowler said. “Personally, I thought the ongoing cost to build it, maintain it, would be prohibitive even with income coming in. Some committee members are still asking that we include it.”
Voters denied the district’s $99.5 million bond referendum in December, with a 2,705-2,412 tally. Floral Park was the only community with positive approval votes.
“Voter turnout was an issue,” Fowler stated. “That’s one of the reasons why I personally would like to see perhaps doing it on the budget vote because it’s not a separate vote. People are used to coming out for the budget. I think it would increase the turnout.”
Forty percent of the bond would have been covered by state aid. The bond would have cost every taxpayer $144.26 annually.
“I think I can safely say that there is certainly a desire on the part of the board to try [the bond] again,” Fowler said. “Things have to happen very quickly to the proper notification that we need to do,” Fowler stated. “If it’s to be on the vote in May...we need to take this up no later than [the committee meeting] in March.”
District architects are looking to “pare down” the proposal, according to Ferrie.
“Some of the work, perhaps, can be done through an energy performance contract,” he said. “That final specific number, of what [the new bond would cost] is undetermined.”
Ferrie says state aid could increase with a smaller project. According to Ferrie, New York State determines building aid in square feet.
“After the bond was voted on, we received our new building aid formula, which increased to 47 percent,” he stated. “Revising the referendum and the increase in state aid will create less impact on the taxpayer.”
Ferrie indicated the buildings and fields being tied together in the proposal affects building aid from the state.
“The fields are included that even though they are a minor part, in order to get building aid, you have to do renovations in the building. If you do the fields standalone, you do not get building aid for the fields from the state.”
The failed bond called for $14.37 million in upgrades at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. About $1.9 million was allocated toward roof construction, while athletic field updates had a cost of $4.37 million. Each school would have received new synthetic sports fields.
Sewanhaka High School was slated to receive $31.2 million in improvements, while Floral Park Memorial and H. Frank Carey high schools would have received $20.8 million and $14.9 million in renovations, respectively. The bond also allocated $15.8 million to Elmont Memorial High School and work at the Alva T. Stanforth Sports complex.