The Southold Union Free School District is continuing its public outreach in advance of a December 8 vote on a proposed $9.8 million capital project that will help shepherd the campus into the future.
Superintendent David Gamberg said new, four page voter guides, explaining all facets of the project and the bond vote, will be sent to all residents in the districts; postcards will be mailed out, as well.
Tours of the campus have commenced, with two more scheduled for December 3 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Gamberg, at this week’s Board of Education meeting, also showed a four-minute video; the video can also be viewed on the district website, where a copy of the Power Point presentation on the project can also be accessed.
The video describes highlights of the planned improvements, including enhanced security, classroom and parking lot upgrades, a new NJROTC classroom and media lab, an outdoor dining area and pergola, a six lane track with synthetic turf and a multi-sport athletic field.
The bond, Gamberg said, is a 15, not 20-year bond; but even after the current bond expires in 2018, if the new bond is approved, taxpayers will see a reduction in their bill, from $204 to $130, for the bond.
Gamberg said BOE president Paulette Ofrias accompanied him and a group of parents, residents and educators on the most recent tour of areas that will be spruced up, should the plan be approved.
“Until you actually see it, you don’t appreciate it in its full context,” he said.
At least one resident had questions: Don Wagner said over the past 11 years, the budget has increased approximately $1 million per year, while at the same time, student population has declined. The cost per students has doubled, he said, from $18,000 to almost $36,000.
Senior citizens are seeing “zilch” in terms of cost of living increases, he said. “If you were in our position, as seniors, why would you vote for this bond issue?” he asked.
Ofrias said while it was a very personal issue, she feels the aim is to “better enhance” the students of the district. She said while residents of all ages and demographics are struggling to “hang on,” they “find a way to make it happen” for students.
The BOE said they’d welcome input on the bond not only from the public but from representatives of the student population, from elementary school on up.
BOE member John Crean said he does not believe “what we are asking for is unreasonable. We haven’t asked for a bond in 20 years.” The project is aimed at keeping facilities safe, upgrading the older parts of the school buildings, and adding the new track, which will benefit not only students but the community.
“If you own a home, after 15 years, you upgrade. I think of this as our home.” Crean said voters have been “fair and reasonable to us in the past” and he believes they will continue to support the district.
Those who wish to attend the tours asked to RSVP by contacting Jennifer Bruer, secretary to the superintendent, at 631-765-5400, ext. 304, or by emailing [email protected].
Last month, plans were rolled out for the capital project.
A special work session was held with the Board of Education to discuss the proposed bond referendum and capital reserve project.
The district’s architectural firm, BBS Architects & Engineers, gave a Power Point presentation, followed by a discussion by the board.
The bond would help to finance improvements in four categories: health and safety, educational space upgrades, community and athletics, and infrastructure and building preservation, in both the high school and elementary schools.
Those improvements include replacing the P/A intercom system, replacing fire alarm systems, a new voiceover IP phone system that will allows classrooms to communicate, security upgrades — including new card-access doors, cameras and enhanced technology — new lighting in the parking lots, parking lot bus and drop off circulation and replacement of deteriorated walks.
Educational space upgrades in the high school include renovation of the existing technology shop and computer lab, converting the existing technology shop to a new library/media center, converting the current library and computer lab to three new classrooms, conversion of the existing weight room to a TV production studio, interior renovations in the art room, photo lab, and ROTC room, and transforming the athletic storage area to the weight room.
In the elementary school, interior renovations and reconfiguration of the existing computer lab and library will take place.
Outdoors, a new, six-lane polyurethane track will be constructed, a new, synthetic turf, multi-sport athletic field will be created, and both the girls JV softball and boys JV baseball field will be relocated.
A reconstruction of a natural grass soccer field will ensue, as will construction of new, 150 seat bleachers.
In addition, some infrastructure and building preservation measures will be taken to replace deteriorated steel lintels and damaged brick masonry, as well as other improvements.
Conversion of the technology shop to the library will include moving the library to a central location in the building, creating a multi-use space where meetings might even be held.
The work will include modernization, electrical system, lighting, mechanical and ventilation system upgrades, as well as new interior finishes, new bookcases and library furnishings, and a new research and media center.
Roger Smith of BBS outlined preliminary floor plans of how the new configurations might look but said the plans were by no means final and, if the bond was approved by voters, the firm would be back to finalize specifics and designs.
The total project cost is $9,765, 750, according to BBS.
Two sources of funding were outlined, including $2 million to be appropriated from the district’s capital reserve fund, and $7,765,750 from the issuance of bonds.
Also discussed was the tax impact of the proposal.
Currently, the district has a $14 million bond indebtedness that’s due to retire in June, 2018.
The tax impact to the average household in Southold for that present $14 million is approximately $204 annually. There have been two refinancings of the bonds over the past several years, to decrease costs as interest rates have gone down.
Should the new bond proposition pass, the tax impact on the average household assessed at $6,480 would be $130 annually for bond totaling $7,765,750.
The public vote is scheduled for December 8, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Southold Junior-Senior High School gym.
Should voters approve the bond proposition, some work could begin immediately, using the $2 million in appropriated funds, the board said, with other projects to come after the current debt is retired.
The board could also consider a bond anticipation note, Smith said.
“This will take a few years to unfold,” he said.
Gamberg said the project has been “years in the works,” with some discussions about moving the library to its proposed space dating back some 20 years.
The changes, he said, are critical and necessary. “This is as important as it is exciting,” he said.
Not only will the plans enhance the educational experience for students and help to prepare them for an evolving world, but the improvements will serve to protect the taxpapers’ investments, Gamberg said.
He added that the $2 million appropriation from the district’s capital reserve fund was possible due to “prudent fiscal planning.”
Students today, he said, are no longer consumers, but “producers of knowledge,” and it is the district’s charge to prepare them for the shift, creating expanded research and classroom facilities.