In a letter written by Central High School District Superintendent John DeTommaso, he explains the district’s plan to sell Jerusalem Avenue School to Nassau BOCES for $12 million, and the reasons for doing so. The Board of Education has unanimously agreed to the sale. Residents in the Bellmores and the Merricks will get a chance to decide in a referendum vote on December 5 whether to approve the sale. Here is the complete context of the letter sent to Your NewsMag:
To The Community:
As you may be aware, since late winter, our district’s Board of Education has been discussing the possible sale of Jerusalem Avenue School to Nassau BOCES. For the past 19 years, Nassau BOCES has been a valued education partner to the Central High School District, renting the Jerusalem Avenue building from the district and providing a number of programs for preschool and elementary-aged students (age 3-14) with disabilities.
Nassau BOCES pays the CHSD $1.3 million per year for the use of the building. The district’s lease agreement with BOCES ends June 30, 2018. BOCES has informed our district that they are no longer interested in renting the Jerusalem Avenue building; as is the case with other BOCES locations throughout the county, they are looking to purchase space to run their programs.
The CHSD Board of Education held a community forum in early March to address the potential building sale to Nassau BOCES. The board postponed voting on the potential sale to provide the greater community with more time to ask questions and offer input.
Since that time, a new comprehensive appraisal of the building has been completed. This most recent appraisal included the use of the land by commercial, residential and senior citizen housing. The property was appraised at $12,920,000 to $13,050,000. According to Breslin Appraisal Inc., “The final choice of value of the subject property, as of the date of valuation (May 15, 2017), had been made at $13 million.” This is the appraisal price for the 15.77 acres at Jerusalem Avenue that BOCES would like to purchase.
As many of you know, the district’s athletic teams have used the field space during this rental period. So as not to lose the availability of the space, the district has negotiated a sell agreement with Nassau BOCES that will allow the district to maintain ownership of the main athletic field and track at a selling price of $12 million. If the sale is finalized, the district would retain the five-acre field/track space. Community residents would also have access to the building’s parking areas and restrooms during athletic and other outdoor events.
The school field will still be owned and maintained by the Central High School District
Outside organizations including PAL, the Bellmore Lions Club and the Bellmore Kiwanis would be able to continue to use all of the building’s field space and gymnasium for sporting events and the annual Strawberry Festival.
At the CHSD Board of Education business meeting of June 19, board trustees voted unanimously to move forward with the sale of the building to Nassau BOCES. All Bellmore-Merrick residents will have the opportunity to vote on this sale on December 5. If the referendum is approved, a second referendum would be held in the other 55 Nassau County school districts in March/April 2018. If voters approve both referendums, the $12 million proceeds from the sale would be put in a separate reserve fund to be used to minimize the tax impact on our community.
As superintendent of schools, I believe that the board’s decision to sell the building to BOCES is in our district and the community’s best interest. With BOCES, remaining in the building, the tradition of Jerusalem Avenue’s academic excellence, dating back to 1956, will continue for all of the Nassau County students eligible for these programs. Further, our Bellmore-Merrick students who attend the programs at Jerusalem Avenue will be able to stay local. Our district’s students and the local programs such as PAL will be able to continue to use the fields and gymnasium. And while the purchase price is a one-time payment, please know that the building’s upkeep and future capital improvement needs are significant. The sale releases the district of these costs, which will further allow the district to offset potential future cost increases and maintain our excellent educational programs. If the sale is not approved, Nassau BOCES could consider discontinuing its lease with us, which would result in a significant loss of income for our district.
This fall, the district will provide more detailed information concerning the sale, as well as host a special presentation in preparation for the December vote.
Thank you for your continued support of our schools.
John D. Tommaso
Superintendent of Schools