PJ school district seeking $30M bond for districtwide upgrades, repairs

PJ school district seeking $30M bond for districtwide upgrades, repairs

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File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Port Jefferson School District has its sights set on a massive face-lift that would impact all of its buildings, but it will come at a substantial cost.

District administration presented a $30 million capital bond proposal to the board of education and the public during a board meeting Sept. 12 which would feature a three-story addition to a wing of the high school, additional classrooms at the high school and elementary school, a turf football field at the high school and lights for the elementary school field, and many more improvements. The district’s total budget for the 2017-18 school year is about $43 million total.

Proposal highlights

•$7.6M to construct a three-story addition at PJHS

•$2.3M to construct new music room and instrumental practice room at PJHS

•$2.2M to build addition to PJHS cafeteria and renovate kitchen space

•$1.2M to replace windows at PJHS

•$2.5M to construct two additional classrooms at elementary school

•$1.7M for locker room renovations at PJHS

•$1.6M for installation of stadium lighting at Scraggy Hill fields

•$1.4M for a new synthetic turf football field at PJHS

•$3.7M to convert tech ed building to new central administration headquarters

•$1.6M to install drainage walls at north side of middle school building

The district will need community approval on a referendum currently slated for a vote Dec. 5 to be able to proceed with obtaining the bond and ultimately beginning construction. If approved the construction would tentatively begin in 2019 and payments would be made annually beginning at about $1.5 million and concluding with a final $2.5 million installment in the 2033-34 fiscal year. The project would result in a homeowner who pays $4,000 annually in school taxes being asked to contribute an additional $200 per year. The district plans to post a “school tax calculator” tool on its website in the coming weeks to allow residents to check how much their tax bill would increase with the additional $30 million burden, on an individual basis. The ask comes at a time of financial uncertainty for the district, which along with several other municipalities on Long Island could potentially lose a substantial amount of property tax revenue pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority.

“Regardless of what happens with LIPA, we to need to take care of the schools,” District Superintendent Paul Casciano said during the meeting. “The best investment you can make, and I know I’m a public school educator so you expect me to say stuff like this, but the best investment you can make is in your schools, and it affects your property values. To neglect the schools is not really a wise move in terms of investment.”

Port Jefferson resident Drew Biondo was one of several community members in attendance who expressed concerns about an “all or nothing” referendum, as he said he viewed some of the components of the proposal as vital and others as less urgent. Casciano and Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister both said during the meeting the district hadn’t yet decided how the referendum would appear on the ballot, be it broken up into more than one component to be voted on or a straight, “yes” or “no” vote on the proposal in its entirety.

“I’d have to think hard about a turf field and lights,” Biondo said. “I understand the need, but when we’re facing possible closure of a power plant … I haven’t made a decision, but one of the things that will probably sway me is if this is an all or nothing. If it’s all or nothing, I don’t know which way I’ll go.”

The district is seeking more community input on the proposal through a survey on its website which was originally going to close Sept. 15, though Casciano said it may be left open for longer. Public tours will be held Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at the elementary school and Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. at the high school for those interested in seeing the areas designated for upgrades.

UPDATE: The district has extended the window for community members to complete the bond proposal survey on its website through Oct. 9.