On Feb. 3, residents of the East Williston School District will be asked to cast their vote on a $5 million bond referendum that will replace The Wheatley School roof and address health and safety issues in all three buildings. Many of you have taken advantage of the new "Ask the Super" button on our website at www.ewsdonline.org to ask clarifying questions about the bond. I have taken this opportunity to share with you some of the frequently asked questions.
Question: Why replace the Wheatley roof rather than just repair it?
Response: The roof leaks in many places and has been leaking for some time. Repairs done over the years have not fully addressed the leaks. The existing roof was replaced back in 1991 and had a 10-year warranty.
Question: Why is the bond referendum vote on Feb. 3 rather than with the May budget vote?
Response: A February vote will allow us to replace the Wheatley roof in the summer of 2009. Roofs can only be replaced during the extended summer vacation when students are not in the building. With voter approval in February, time is needed for the State Education Department to approve our plans and issue building permits. This is then followed by additional time for a required school district bidding process. A May 2009 bond referendum would likely result in the replacement of the roof during the following summer in 2010.
Additionally, roofing products are petroleum-based. With the drop in oil prices over the past six months, the district hopes to take advantage of the current lower pricing on the roofing and contractor bids. When we began deliberating on the bond referendum the price of oil was at an all-time high and the price of the roof was estimated to be $3.5 to $3.8 million. As the price of oil plummeted we were able to project a much lower construction cost.
Question: Why would you present a bond referendum vote during these harsh economic times?
Response: Mindful of the economic times, the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) set financial parameters upon which it would unanimously recommend a bond for these projects. With the retiring of the district's March 1990 bond and its final payment in July 2009, the board approved a $5 million bond referendum, which would not exceed the cost of the retiring March 1990 bond and not increase the cost to taxpayers. It is anticipated that the new bond payments will be less than the retiring March 1990 bond. Both committees, the FAC and the CFAC, unanimously recommended this bond referendum.
Question: Why not include the cost of the roof as a one-time expense in the May 2009 budget?
Response: A bond is an economical way of addressing costly expenses. The scale of work needed in our school buildings makes it cost-efficient to use a funding device like a bond, which allows us to get all of the work done over a short period of time at a lower cost rather than through a single budgetary appropriation. With voter approval of this bond referendum, we anticipate the tax impact on the average home to be $114.60 annually, over 20 years. If the Wheatley roof is added to the 2009-10 school budget at the May 2009 budget vote, as a one-time cost, the estimated tax impact for the average home for the year would be $949. Including the roof in the school budget, in May, as a one-time cost to the taxpayer, would likely delay the replacement of the Wheatley roof until the summer of 2010.
Question: How did you choose the specific facility projects?
Response: The board of education charged two of its community committees, the CFAC and the FAC to evaluate the state of the district's facilities. (The CFAC is comprised of resident volunteers in the construction and real estate industries.) The architect and the CFAC committee conducted room-by-room, corridor-by-corridor inspections and roof inspections of all three buildings. The CFAC identified projects totaling $14,877,425. Prior to each board of education Work Session (in October at Wheatley, in November at Willets Road and December at North Side), evening building tours were conducted to allow residents an opportunity to inspect the facilities firsthand. Many committee meetings, as well as public discussions, between the board and the committees were held at each of the Work Sessions.
The CFAC reviewed their original list of projects and prioritized based on need. The FAC investigated the possible financial impact of the projects and recommended a reduction of the scope of work to fall within the financial parameters of the retiring March 1990 bond. It was therefore recommended that only health and safety projects should be considered.
Question: How did you come up with the $5 million figure?
Response: The parameters for the proposed bond were established by the FAC so that payments would be less than our current payments on the retiring March 1990 bond, yet would be able to address the facility issues identified by the CFAC. (The FAC is comprised of resident volunteers in the financial industries.) Given these financial parameters, the CFAC prioritized the facility projects identified and limited the projects accordingly. At the Dec. 1, 2008 Work Session held at North Side, both committees unanimously recommended this $5 million bond which would pay for the Wheatley roof and other health and safety facility issues (encompassing code violations) within all three buildings. The board, at its Dec. 15, 2008 monthly business meeting approved this bond referendum. It is estimated that the $5 million bond will cost the average home $114.60 annually. The annual cost of the retiring March 1990 bond for the average home was higher, $131.30.
Question: How did you come up with the 4.8 percent average interest rate?
Response: Interest rates were projected based on the "MMD" (Municipal Market Data GO Yields), the industry standard index. The 4.8 percent average interest rate is a blended rate. It is computed by taking the lower rates for the first few years of the bond combined with estimated higher rates for maturity of later year bonds. The bond will have level debt payments.
Please continue to stay informed through our website, bond newsletter, PTO meetings and Board of Education meetings. Remember to vote on Feb. 3 at the Wheatley Gymnasium between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.