Residents in the Merrick School District passed a capital improvement bond on December 6 by a vote of 361 to 167, opening the door to a raft of facility improvements through additions, renovations and repairs to the district’s Birch, Chatterton and Levy-Lakeside schools.
Chief among improvements will be air conditioning in all of the classrooms in the schools, and building an extension onto Chatterton school.
But all three schools will benefit considerably from building improvements, including bathroom renovations, repairs to building masonry, sidewalks and curbing, and additional parking.
In addition to air conditioning in all classrooms and learning spaces to provide for better temperature control and proper airflow, a 5800 square-foot addition will be built onto Chatterton School to provide for a second multipurpose room and intervention classrooms.
Dr. Dominick Palma, superintendent of the Merrick School District, put out a release thanking all residents in the district for their support in making the bond referendum a success.
The cost of the bond voted on by residents is for $24.9 million, with $5 million being transferred from the district’s fund balance and $19.9 million to be raised by residents.
Calculated, for a home in the district assessed at $688 (a market value in the low to mid $300Ks), the annual cost impact will be an additional $76 per year. For a home assessed at $963 (a market value in the low to mid $600Ks) the average yearly increase will be $106. For a home assessed at $2,189 (a market value in the low $900Ks to $1 million), the annual cost increase will be approximately $241.
The bond had been under serious consideration since summer of 2015, remarked Dr. Palma. The original bond called for $47 million to be raised, but throughout the intervening year the board reduced the costs to $24.9 million – or $19.9 million to residents.
Dr. Palma told Your NewsMag that a Board of Education visit to the schools in September helped the board finally assess what each of the schools actually needed, and the cost for each item, to arrive at its final capital bond number.
“We can go through the list of general categories and see what it is we really want, and what we truly need to pay for,” Dr. Palma said during a September meeting, leading to the school visits.
Roger Smith, principal of BBS Architecture of Patchogue, NY, which has contracted with the Central High School District on its bond, and the Bellmore School District in an earlier bond, also told the board during that September meeting that by visiting the schools it could look at each item on the list of proposals, review the item and determine if it needs to be repaired or replaced. If neither was necessary, he said, it could be crossed off the list, reducing the overall cost.
Dominique Tirino, co-president of the Bellmore-Merrick Council of PTAs, told Your NewsMag that while no one likes to pay increased taxes, these taxes can at least benefit the community more directly because they will help maintain property values. “Increased energy efficiency in the buildings combined with new areas of learning for the students” will only help keep the community a desirable place to live and raise children, she said.
Dr. Palma said the school board meetings in the coming months will focus on design aspects of the facility improvements and their timeline of when the improvements can made.
However, the state’s Department of Education could influence when the improvements can begin, as they approve of all contracts and designs. Earlier, construction on the Central High School District’s $50 million bond issue was held up by the state, delaying by several months the construction of the district’s new broadcasting communications program and its CHAMP program for the culinary arts.