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Grounds

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

The Mount Sinai School District is asking the community to pay higher taxes in exchange for upgrades to its buildings.

The district unveiled a capital projects proposal that will require passage of a bond by the community at a board meeting Sept. 26. The list of projects contains a number of renovations and upgrades officials hope will keep MS schools in line with other local districts and prepare its facilities for future generations.

“We’re not looking to do this all for tomorrow – we’re looking for providing for our kids 10 to 15 years from now,” board of education President Robert Sweeney said.

The planned total for the bond currently sits at $24,695,663, which would raise taxes by $235 for a household in the Mount Sinai community with an assessed value of $3,700, or $362 for an assessed value of $5,700, for example. This tax increase will be in addition to whatever tax value will be released for the 2019-20 budget.

Items to be included in the more than $24 million in projects are a large swathe of renovations and repair work to all three of the school buildings on campus, as well as the athletic fields and grounds. The bond proposal seeks to replace the public address and master time clock system across all three buildings. In addition, it asks for money to replace several exterior doors, windows and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems across all school buildings on the campus.

In line with the district’s push for stronger building security, the bond details a number of security upgrades, including new surveillance cameras and intercom systems, exterior door automatic locking systems and film-lined glass windows to make it more difficult to see in.

The high school is receiving a substantial share of attention, with funds in the bond to finish replacement of the roof, which has long suffered from leaks. It also calls for the construction of new music practice rooms along with renovations to the art room, ceramics room, fashion/tech room, locker rooms and science labs.

In terms of outdoor facilities, the bond proposes two new field surfaces, one a multipurpose turf field at the high school and another a natural surface girls softball field.

The board will hold a special meeting Oct. 10 to discuss the merits of certain projects on the list. Sweeney said he wanted to be careful to only go out to bond for projects the district wouldn’t normally be able to complete with excess fund balance.

“If I can pay for it, why should I put it on credit?” he said.

The board also detailed a number of potential projects not included on the main list to be discussed prior to approving a final menu, like replacing stage lighting at Mount Sinai Elementary School and reconfiguring the library in the middle school. The high school could see the auditorium seating replaced along with additions to the orchestra room and the main office. The biggest extra projects included the construction of a new 6,500-square-foot maintenance storage garage and the creation of two new synthetic turf fields, one for softball and another for baseball.

The total for the additional projects is about $26 million. If the district were to include everything from additional projects and the bond as currently proposed, the total would equal $50,483,500, which would add $480 or $740 per year in additional taxes for homes assessed at $3,700 or $5,700, respectively.

Board Vice President Lynn Jordan said that several months ago the original list of projects provided to the board equaled close to $68 million, and she thought the 20 Mount Sinai residents and school employees on a bond committee formed during the summer did a good job in focusing down on what was most critical.

“They put their hearts and souls into this, and I’m very impressed with how they all handled deliberations,” Jordan said.

Mount Sinai resident Brad Arrington said he hoped the school would be conscientious not to make extensive changes just to keep up with other local school districts.

“It can be easy to feel envious of what other districts have, but we need to focus on what we can afford,” Arrington said. “We need to take a balanced approach, with some of our focus dedicated to sports, some to the arts.”

In May district residents approved a $5 million capital project referendum. The funds have already gone toward finishing refurbishing the school’s football field, and replacing perimeter fencing and fixing a portion of the high school roof is also underway.

Residents are encouraged to attend or send in comments to the board before the Oct. 10 meeting.

Once the board votes to approve the bond, there will be a mandated 45-day period before the bond can be brought to a community vote. The board will determine when a vote will be held after its Oct. 27 board meeting.

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Cracked pavement is on Kings Park’s list of things to repair. Photo from Timothy Eagen

Kings Park Central School District has big plans in its future, in terms of renovations.

“When you think of the hamlet of Kings Park, there is no greater investment than in its school facilities,” Superintendent Timothy Eagen said.

The Kings Park Board of Education created a facilities committee this past May. The district reached out to community members once the committee was formed to invite residents and employees to join.

“We had 20 responses from staff and the community, and members were ultimately chosen so as to best represent Kings Park, while also making sure to include members with knowledge of facilities and grounds,” Eagen said in an email.

The committee is made up of two board members, seven district employees, one student and eight resident volunteers.

Throughout the summer, the committee traveled to all the schools in the district, surveying the damages, repairs and upgrades needed in each building.

Currently the total dollar value of every item under consideration is approximately $40 million.

The board was presented with a long list of what the committee believes to be necessary updates to the buildings at Tuesdays board meeting.

“I love this district, my kids all go here, and I think the upgrades are a total necessity,” Tara Samson, a member of the committee said.

Out of the projects, up to 82 percent would be focused on infrastructure, with 8 percent going to healthy, safety and security, 8 percent to athletics and recreation, and 2 percent to curriculum and instruction.

“Our buildings are not getting any younger,” Eagen said.

The youngest school building in the district is William T. Rogers Middle School, which was established in 1970. And the oldest building is RJO Intermediate School, which was built in 1928.

Members of the committee and Eagen both agreed that these schools are all well past their prime and are in need of major infrastructure renovations.

Parking lot renovations and drainage are issues every school building shares. Whether it’s the front parking lot or the back parking lot, each school has cracks in the pavement, on the sidewalks and stairs, potholes, and problems with flooding when it rains.

The removal of vinyl asbestos tiles is also crucial in every building, with the fear that damaged tiles are releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Plumbing repairs, electrical upgrades and boiler upgrades were also echoed sentiments at each school.

“My children run home everyday to use the bathroom, since they refuse to use the ones at school,” Samson said.

Members of the committee also said that money is flying out the windows of the schools every day, since there is little to no insulation left in many of the original windows for each building. This is contributing to added costs in heating and air conditioning.

“In WTR middle school, the heating controls are located on the roof, which is incredibly inefficient and needs to change,” Tony Tanzi, a member of the committee, said.

It is hoped a major part of the renovation funds will go toward installing new roofs in almost every building.

With the exception of Park View Elementary School, where the roof was replaced two years ago after Hurricane Sandy damaged it, every roof in the district is more than 10 years old, and two are more than 20 years old. The intermediate and middle schools both have their original roofs.

Kings Park High School is in danger of having its track condemned, which means it would no longer be allowed to hold track meets, according to a committee member.

Aside from track replacement, additional bleachers and lighting, upgrades to the concession stand, additional field irrigation and more were listed under consideration by the committee.

Overall approximately 75 percent of the work is planned for the high school and middle school.

“The library [at the high school], is not really a library at all, it’s used as a second cafeteria,” Casey Samson, a Kings Park high school student and committee member, said.

Renovations to the library are under consideration of the committee right now, including a media makeover and a new second floor loft space.

As far as curriculum and instruction improvements, the committee wants to utilize the New York State Smart Schools Bond Act that has allocated $1.454 million for Kings Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) initiated the Smart Schools Bond Act last year, with the intention to invest $2 billion in New York’s schools that will put schools in the 21st century and ensure that students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy.

Expenditure through this act would include educational technology equipment, high-speed broadband or wireless Internet connectivity, and capital projects to install high-tech security features.

The committee also wants to shift toward solar energy in the Kings Park school district, including the installation of solar panels on roofs, and purchasing electricity through a renewable energy company.

SunEdison, a global renewable energy company headquartered in the United States, would design, own, operate, monitor and maintain anything they set up in Kings Park, according to the committee.

If Kings Park purchased electricity from SunEdison, it would be at a lower rate than the district is currently paying PSEG Long Island. Kings Park would retain its PSEGLI account, but would require less electricity from the utility if it began working with SunEdison.

“We are looking at ways to save the community money, and with solar energy we could save $100,00 annually,” Eagen said.

The committee is in the process of prioritizing the items that were identified, and then they will make a recommendation to the board of education. Eagen anticipates that this will occur by the end of September.

Once the recommendation is made, the board will decide on a final package, and a timeline for voter approval. If everything moves forward as planned, the next step would be to follow the project bidding process and get the New York State Education Department’s approval.

If approval is given, the goal is for the highest priority projects to begin in summer 2016.