Port Jeff school board advances capital bond for May 16 referendum
By Mallie Jane Kim
Port Jefferson School District residents will have another chance to vote on a capital bond to fund school improvement projects, this time for $15.9 million.
This vote — scheduled for Tuesday, May 16 — comes just after the community rejected a pair of proposed bonds totaling $24.9 million last December. The district’s Board of Education approved putting the bond up for community approval at a meeting Tuesday, March 14, with the support of all six members present — trustee Ravi Singh was absent.
If the current proposal passes, taxpayers will pay for the bond in installments over several years. The vote will take place alongside the vote to approve next year’s annual district budget.
School officials suggest the proposal is more modest than the pair of bonds voted down in December, making no mention of replacing the high school’s grass sports field with artificial turf, a point of contention last time.
This bond would fund improvements to, for example, locker rooms, heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and alterations to some interior spaces. The details of this plan are on file for public review in the district clerk’s office, and the district will post more information about the new bond under the “Bond Project” tab of its website.
The board also plans to allocate more money toward capital improvement projects in the annual budget, according to Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister, which would help to pay for some facility update priorities and better plan for future needs.
“Seeing how difficult it is to go out for a bond and how hard times are, we were talking about gradually increasing the allocation,” he said while presenting the second draft of the district’s 2023-24 budget to the board. He added that he hoped this plan would mitigate the need for additional capital bonds in the foreseeable future.
Leister explained that updates to school infrastructure, health and safety — including security — and instructional classrooms would all be considered in school budgets moving forward.
“We thought by trying to incorporate those three things in future budgets, we can help bring up the level of our areas and the learning of our students,” he said.
Immediate plans for these funds include creating an ADA-compliant bathroom at the elementary school, installing a stop-arm security booth at car entrances to the middle school and high school, beginning a window replacement plan at the high school and refitting some classrooms.
Leister also noted science and computer labs would be due for remodeling, adding that “all the different areas that are functional but are maybe [from] the ‘70s or ‘80s and need to be brought up to current levels.”
Furthermore, Leister said stop-arm security booths are necessary because some GPS mapping apps list school driveways as regular roads and the administration wants to limit cut-through traffic.
The current draft version of next year’s school budget has a shortfall of $222,547. Superintendent of Schools Jessica Schmettan said this would be filled by staffing reductions to be decided before Leister presents the final budget to the board in April.
The board plans to increase the tax levy by 1.98%, just under the 1.99% cap set for the district by state regulations