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Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

As Mount Sinai school district outlines the first part of its budget for the 2018-19 school year, administrators hope to roll out a capital project bond to tackle what board of educations members say are immediate repairs needed across its three buildings.

The proposed $59.6 million budget aims to maintain current programs and stay within the 2 percent tax cap, and includes a transfer of $4.2 million from the district’s unallocated fund balance to pay for emergency repair projects. The transfer — $3.6 million needed for fixes that cannot wait, and extras currently being reviewed to bring the total to $4.2 — will need to be approved by the public.

Mount Sinai school district Superintendent Gordon Brosdal speaks to residents about the proposed budget plans. Photo by Kevin Redding

A bond referendum advisory committee made up of board of education and community members was formed in spring 2017 to prioritize the district’s requested projects list and make recommendations to the board of education based on an architect’s evaluation of the elementary, middle and high school buildings, which began more than three years ago.

Major proposed projects include a partial repair to the high school’s roof, multiple renovations to the building’s auditorium and replacement of its turf. The field hasn’t been improved upon in 15 years, well beyond the average lifespan of turf fields, and the bleachers are currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

School board and bond committee member Edward Law said while the district has several dozen projects to tackle — “over $50 million worth of requests” — the group will whittle the priorities down to what it think the community can support at this time.

“The committee is about the district’s facility needs and not just a wish list of everything we might want,” Law said, stressing the repairs in the proposed bond will not go forward without the public’s approval during a referendum vote in May. “At the end of the day, it’s not up to the advisory committee or the board of education. It’s up to the community because it’s theirs and our collective tax dollars we’re talking about.”

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said using the unallocated fund balance for the repairs will help satisfy directives made by the state’s comptroller during an audit to bring down the balance’s amounts to 4 percent of the annual operating budget. The current fund balance is estimated to $9.9 million, or 16.7 percent of the annual budget.

“Since we have the money, let’s do it and make it happen,” Brosdal said.

District officials said updates on the bond referendum will be presented to the public over the coming months. The next board of education meeting will be held Feb. 28 in the middle school auditorium at 8 p.m.

Turf fields, locker room upgrades and more discussed for schools

A man stands next to termite damage on the high school gym floor. Photo from Regina Pisicani

Northport athletes may see some improvements in fields and facilities throughout the district in the upcoming years.

The Northport-East Northport school district’s Athletic Facilities Citizens Advisory Committee gave a presentation to the board last Thursday, Dec. 10, highlighting the problems student-athletes face with the current conditions of locker rooms, fields and more, and gave a five-year comprehensive plan for upgrades.

Members of the committee toured all the schools in the district, and spoke with representatives from synthetic turf companies, members of buildings and grounds departments from multiple school districts and coaches to get input.

The recommendations were divided and spread out over a five-year span to offset the estimated cost of about $17 million. Trustee Regina Pisicani, who spearheaded the creation of this group, said deciding which projects came first was the most difficult part.

The current gym lockers at Northport Middle School are decaying. Photo from Regina Pisicani
The current gym lockers at Northport Middle School are decaying. Photo from Regina Pisicani

“We want it all and we want it all now,” Pisicani said at the meeting. “Because the facilities have been neglected for so long, it all needs to be done now, but we know that is not possible.”

Immediate projects include several upgrades to the Northport High School football field. Replacing the football field with synthetic turf using alternative fill, installing a new track, adding stadium lighting and replacing the sound system were suggested.

Committee member and Northport teacher Rocco Colucci said many members of the Northport community use the high school track.

“The high school track team uses it, the middle school uses it, but also the community uses it for Relay For Life and the [Northport} Running Club,” Colucci said. “This track gets used almost every day.”

Constructing an outdoor concession stand and permanent restrooms, as well as replacing the asphalt by the long jump and pole vault area at the high school were also suggested, as well as replacement of the tennis courts and fencing at Northport Middle School.

The committee expects the costs for first-year projects to range from $5.6 million to $5.9 million.

For the 2017-18 school year, projects include replacing the soccer field at the high school with synthetic turf and adding protective fencing, adding a natural grass field with irrigation for the junior varsity and varsity baseball fields, and a new backstop with increased overhand suspension at the junior varsity and varsity softball fields.

During the presentation, Pisicani said the stairway leading to the wrestling room should be painted and the ceiling and lighting at the wrestling room entrance needs to be replaced or repaired, too. Committee members thought these renovations should be tackled in the second year, as well as projects for Northport Middle School, including an all-weather track, new long jump pit, improvements to the softball and baseball fields, and replacing the ceiling and lighting in the gym.

At Bellerose Elementary School, new lighting and a ventilation system are suggested for the gym. The total projected cost for year-two projects is about $7 million.

The cost for year-three projects is significantly smaller with a projected budget of approximately $1.7 million. Recommendations focus on the ceiling and bathroom area of the girls’ and boys’ locker rooms at the high school, and air conditioning in the high school’s main gymnasium. Renovations for the Northport Middle School boy’ and girls’ locker rooms include new lockers, windows and bathrooms. The committee also suggested that the East Northport Middle School multipurpose field benefits from an irrigation system.

The approximate $340,000 year-four projects include renovations of the tennis and handball courts at both the high school and William J. Brosnan School, and irrigation to the main field at Pulaski Road Elementary School.

The final year of projects has a plan to redesign the entryway to the gym area for teams and spectators at the high school, installing an all-weather track and irrigation for a natural field at Brosnan school, and an irrigation system, driveway and path to the back field at Bellerose elementary. The anticipated cost is about $2.4 million.

Pisicani urged the board to take tours themselves to help see what state the facilities are really in. Members of the board thanked Pisicani and acknowledged that this overview was needed, but no immediate decisions were made.

Harborfields Superintendent Diana Todaro. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Harborfields school district residents voted in favor of $11.7 million in districtwide capital improvements while also mowing down a $1.9 million plan to add turf fields.

The proposals were presented to the public in two separate propositions in a referendum vote held on Tuesday. 

Proposition No. 1, the districtwide upgrades, received 1,248 yes votes and 573 no votes, while Proposition No. 2 for the turf garnered 629 yes votes and 1,177 no votes.

In an email, Harborfields Superintendent Diana Todaro thanked the community for voting.

“I also thank all residents who took the time over the course of the past several months to attend our public meetings and offer their input,” Todaro said in a statement. “We will continue to update the community on the progress of the capital improvement work that was approved.”

The first proposition involves approximately $11.7 million in upgrades to all school buildings in the district. These upgrades include infrastructure repairs, classroom reorganization and athletic facilities improvements, according to a district statement.

This bond contains work to renovate bathrooms and replace damaged doors. It will also upgrade some science labs and completely transform the wellness center into a multimedia production computer lab with a new, bigger wellness center reconfigured in other rooms.

Specifically for the high school, the auditorium and gym will be upgraded and certain athletic fields will be reconstructed with natural grass. Permanent visitor bleachers will be added to the football field and the locker rooms will be renovated and reconfigured.

At Oldfield Middle School, the science labs and family and consumer science room will be renovated as well as athletic fields and tennis courts. The locker rooms will also be reconfigured and renovated. Certain bathrooms in the school will be upgraded and an outside masonry would be appointed. The gymnasium floor will be refinished and the bleachers replaced. The lighting systems in the school’s auditorium will also be upgraded.

At Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School, upgrades will include the installation of a new gym floor, replacement of curtains and risers in the multipurpose room, renovation of student bathroom and the creation of a multi-sensory learning lab. Outdated playground equipment will be replaced and the western parking area would be renovated and drainage improved.

Also, Washington Drive Primary School’s parking area will be expanded.

The second proposition for turf fields was dependent on the approval of the first and would have included a transition to a synthetic turf field at the high school and using an alternative fill, such as Nike infill, instead of crumb rubber.

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Rocky Point Board of Education members announce the results for the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After much anticipation, the Rocky Point Board of Education members revealed the results for the school district’s $20.4 million maintenance bond after voting took place on Monday, and the results were less than impressive.

The bond’s $17,478,513 Proposition 1 received 396 votes in opposition and 320 votes in favor. Proposition 2 was also defeated, 465 to 233 votes.

The bond aimed to target repairs and renovations to the facilities, as well as health and safety projects. Proposition 1 focused on major projects, like bathroom repairs, upkeep, or additions, like outdoor bathrooms; fixing boilers; lighting ceilings; air conditioning; and locker room renovations, among other projects. Proposition 2 dealt with what some residents perceived as minor projects. This included funding items like artificial grass.

Less than 1,000 residents went to the Rocky Point High School gymnasium and voted on the bond. Wendy Guthy, of Rocky Point, whose third child recently graduated from the high school, was one of many residents who voted against the bond.

“There are things that the community doesn’t feel is necessary based on what [the Board of Education] told us two years ago,” Guthy said.

She said the board informed residents that the institution was in good standing in 2013. Guthy also added her thoughts on some renovations she found unnecessary, like repairs to the turf on the athletic field. Other residents shared Guthy’s same opinion regarding the bond’s minor projects. Rocky Point resident Judy Stringer said the bond’s propositions had “too much fluff and too many wants…instead of needs.”

“All those extra bathrooms and turf is not needed,” Stringer said in a phone interview. “Things that should be taken care of [are] the high school bathrooms and the Frank J. Carasiti bathrooms. Those things are important and necessary for the children.”

While Guthy said no to the renovations, it is not because she wants to deprive students of the renovations, but thinks about the pressure it would put on parents’ wallets.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘No,’ to the kids,” Guthy said. “But you have to be budget-minded too.”

According to the board’s newsletter regarding the bond, the state would have funded the majority of the bond, which requires taxpayer dollars. Despite this, the board’s newsletter claimed that Rocky Point taxpayers would pay less than $8 monthly to fund the propositions. Residents would have experienced a total tax impact of $92.35 if the bond was passed. Even if Proposition 2 passed, the approval of the entire bond would depend on whether the first proposition passed.

One resident, who did not want to give her name directly after voting, said she felt bad voting in opposition of the bond but she “wanted to send a message, that [the Rocky Point Board of Education]…shouldn’t tack on those extra things.” While this resident admitted that a new heating system was in order among other necessities, she said minor projects deterred her from voting for the bill. At the time, she believed the bond would pass.

During the Aug. 31 Board of Education meeting, some individuals from the New York State United Teachers School Related Professionals Association gathered to voice their opinions regarding teaching assistants versus teaching aides, and added that they would not vote in favor of the bond if the board were to eliminate teaching aide positions. Jessica Ward’s position as a teaching aide was eliminated during that meeting.

Many of these individuals attended the Monday meeting.

Rocky Point BOE President Susan Sullivan said the board tried to address the needs of the school and was disappointed with Monday night’s results on the bond.

“As elected representatives of our community, the Board of Education worked to present a bond that struck a balance between the infrastructural needs of our buildings and repairs that would preserve the integrity of our schools in a financially responsible manner,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is disappointing that the proposal presented did not garner the support of our community. We are committed to continuing to provide our students and staff with a safe and secure learning environment and will work together with our community to discuss ways to properly support our educational facilities.”

Despite the results, Superintendent of Schools for Rocky Point school district, Michael Ring, still appreciated residents’ participation with the bond.

“The district thanks the public for their participation in the bond vote,” Ring said in an email. “Moving forward, the district will continue to review its facilities’ needs in order to determine actions that may be necessary to sustain the integrity and maintenance of our buildings and grounds.”

School committee to pitch 5-year plan for facilites

The Northport High School football team plays at home. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Northport-East Northport school district’s Athletic Citizens Advisory Committee is exploring turf fields and other upgrades to school facilities.

The group plans to present formal recommendations to the school board in coming weeks, according to Trustee Regina Pisacani, who spearheaded the creation of the group.

Pisacani delivered an update at the Sept. 24 school board meeting, and said that the committee had made much progress over the summer. She said members of the group had toured nearly every building in the district, and had been able to create a list of all the improvements they deemed necessary.

“We were joined by Anthony Resca, superintendent of [buildings] and grounds, and Bernard Krueger, [supervisor] of buildings and grounds, who were able to add their insight and answer all the questions we had,” Pisacani said in a phone interview.

The committee also looked different options to add to the district, likes synthetic turf and natural turf, sod repairs and more. The group also reached out the coaches within the district to get their input.

“No one knows the athletes and what they need better than the coaches,” Pisacani said. “Many coaches in the district feel that Northport athletes are not offered a level playing field compared to other schools right now because of the state of the facilities at Northport.”

The committee has also met with Ed Parrish, a civil engineer for Huntington Town. “We wanted to hear the community feedback that he’s received for the jobs he’s done,” Pisacani said.

SPRINTURF and LANDTECH also spoke with the committee to give their insight on how their businesses would work with the district, according to Piscani.

And finally, the committee also toured other school districts, to see their athletic facilities and the upgrades they’ve made that worked out well for their schools.

Pisacani said they viewed fields at Bethpage school district and Manhasset school district. At Manhasset they were able to tour with Jim Amen, Manhasset’s director of physical education and athletics, who also answered many questions they had.

The committee is currently discussing recommendations to present to the board. Each school has its own list of needs. Pisacani said committee members still need to tally up the monetary value of their recommendations.

“After we put costs to everything, we will present the board with our recommended five-year plan,” Pisacani said. “Then it is up to the will of the board to decide if they want to go forward.”

Although the committee expects to deliver recommendations to the board in December, Pisacani is hopeful they will be able to present much sooner than then.

The Northport-East Northport school district’s Athletic Citizens Advisory Committee was born out of a number of parents who urged school board members to consider funding upgrades to the district facilities in the school’s budget back in January. Twenty-seven parents emailed the school board saying that the current state of the schools facilities were “embarrassing” and could be a “safety hazard.”

The school board approved the formation of the committee in March, made up of 15 district residents and spearheaded by Pisacani. Aside from inspections and evaluations of the athletic facilities in the district, the committee was also charged with determining the costs of their recommended repairs and analyzing outside funding opportunities to pay for the upgrades.