Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00
The Mineola School District announced it will hold a referendum vote on Tuesday, Nov. 19 to get public permission to use $3.8 million from its capital reserve fund to make various repairs at its schools.
The reserve was created in 2011 by a proposition attached to an election day budget vote. The reserve, which currently holds the $5 million that the district initially set as a maximum, would shrink to a thin $1.2 million if the vote and
plan go through.
Thus, the district has attached to the November vote a second plan, which would increase the maximum allowed in the reserve to $15 million. This proposition would allow the board to designate future monies toward other capital projects, according to school officials.
If the vote is defeated, the money will remain in the reserve. If it is approved, the State Education Department needs to review the plan, a process that could take six months.
“We’re at [the state department’s] mercy,” District Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “School districts, we don’t go to the local town. We send it to Albany, they make comments on the plans and make a decision.”
Assuming the vote goes through, school reps estimate that state approval will come through by summertime. The funds can only be used on capital projects.
“The law requires permission to spend [the reserve],” Nagler said. “That is why we’re having the November vote. Every district is supposed to have a plan of how they meet their capital plan every five years.”
Every five years, Mineola conducts a New York State-mandated building condition survey. The last one was completed during the 2010-11 school year. That survey prompted the district to create the capital reserve. Now, Nagler explained, all of the masonry work at Mineola’s seven school buildings, especially the older ones, need updating. This is a primary concern, according to district officials.
Windows and doors at Jackson, Hampton Avenue, Meadow Drive and Cross Street schools need to be replaced, according to Nagler. The latter school is currently being rented by the Solomon Schechter Day School.
Nagler called the conditions “horrible.” “In some cases the windows don’t open,” he said. “In some cases, you can see through the door. There’s a little hole. The buildings need new bricks, cement, [window] sills...so much so, [the masonry] alone is in excess of $1 million worth of work.”
Other areas of concern include heating units at the elementary schools and the boiler at Mineola High School, which Nagler estimates is 52 years old.
While the plan doesn’t necessarily include more prominent pieces of the schools, Mineola School Board President Artie Barnett feels the problem will not fix itself.
“This isn’t glamorous stuff,” Barnett said. “It’s not libraries or auditoriums, but it costs a lot more. If it’s falling apart from the outside in and we’ve heard comments about peeling paint. You can keep patching those things up, but we need to seal these buildings up.”
Nagler said he would attend PTA meetings prior to the Nov. 19 vote to make presentations on the referendum propositions.