School bond vote set for Nov. 17
Board of Education President Steve Gellar explains the details of the bond at a public hearing that was held on Monday.

IB/Chalifoux

School bond vote set for Nov. 17

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
11/12/2015


WEST ISLIP—On Monday night, the West Islip School District gave an informational presentation at Beach Middle School regarding a proposed $50 million bond referendum entailing significant repairs and improvements to its infrastructure in the years to come. Voting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 17 in the West Islip High School gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The presentation, conducted by Superintendent Bernadette Burns and Board of Education President Steve Gellar, covered all of the facets of the bond and detailed why such improvements were necessary. They noted that all of the district’s schools are 50 years old or older and in dire need of major repairs and improvements. An approved bond would enable the district to implement renovations to many of its schools, such as science labs, gymnasiums, auditoriums, athletic facilities (including a second multisport field at the Bayberry field area), safety and security, technology advancements and infrastructure repairs.

“We need to evaluate better ways to protect our facilities and the people they house five to six decades after our buildings were built,” said Burns. “Our already aging buildings have deteriorated to the extent that Band-Aids are no longer sufficient. The district has poured more and more money into repairs and other maintenance costs, and until the source of the problems are addressed, more money will be spent and more issues will arise as the buildings continue to age.”

Another major objective of the bond is improving safety and security. 

“The safety of our students and staff, and the security of our buildings are our foremost concerns,” said Burns. “Our school buildings were built long before current standards for building security were developed.”

Meanwhile, Burns stated that the district is looking to update its classroom and teaching facilities to best prepare students for life in the 21st century.

“We need to be more aggressive in our implementation of technology for instructional and other purposes,” said Burns. “Our classrooms must include technology to enhance learning through research, communication, and other productive strategies and tools. Currently, our technology infrastructure cannot support our instructional vision in this area.”

Burns noted that most routine maintenance and repair projects do not require financing through a bond. However, when major repairs are needed, a school bond is the instrument used by many districts to pay for such costs. 

The proposed bond would fund $49,961,280 worth of repairs and improvements throughout the school district. If the bond were approved, it would allow the district to take advantage of historically low interest rates and to keep the tax impact to residents to a minimum. Meanwhile, New York State building aid would fund 70 percent of the total cost, reducing the final cost to taxpayers to approximately $15 million. 

Once each project is approved by the state and subsequently completed, the district would then apply to the state for the reimbursements agreed upon at the outset.

“Because we’re a school, we have to do the work in phases,” said Gellar, who noted that initial phases would likely commence by next summer. “So really the work gets planned out over a series of years, and that actually helps contain the costs to us, the taxpayers.”

The cost to the average homeowner would be approximately $5 to $7 per month, or $60 to $80 per year. After the first five years, due in part to the maturing of previous bonds, the projected cost to the average homeowner would begin to lessen.

“That 70 percent gets paid back to us over a period of years, and that money then gets used right away to start paying down the debt,” said Gellar. “So that’s why over the first five years or so, the cost to the taxpayers will be a little bit higher. And then, once the state aid starts getting reimbursed and some of the older bonds start coming off the books, the taxpayers’ cost will actually decrease.”

For further details and information on the proposed bond referendum, visit the district website at www.wi.k12.ny.us.