Sewanhaka officials propose $86.6M bond referendum

Renewed option is nearly $13 million less than initial plan


Sewanhaka school district officials voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution to present an $86.6 million bond referendum to voters next month. The new bond is approximately $13 million smaller than the one district residents rejected in December.

The measure would authorize, but not require, the district — which comprises H. Frank Carey, Elmont Memorial, Sewanhaka, New Hyde Park Memorial and Floral Park Memorial High Schools — to issue $86.6 million in debt to fund renovation and improvement projects in each of its buildings. If it were approved, approximately 47 percent of the principal and interest on the debt would be paid for by the state in the form of building aid — up from 40 percent in the initial proposal. The projects would be carried out and financed over a period of three or four years.

The new plan does not include air conditioning in each auditorium, which was a point of contention for many residents in the initial proposal. Air conditioning, they argued, was a luxury — not a necessity — and one that would not be needed beyond the summer months. Leaving air conditioning out of the new proposal allows the district to reduce the bond by nearly $3.3 million.

“That’s a significant amount of work across the board to try to reduce the total overall number,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ralph Ferrie said of the air conditioning. Ferrie added that the auditoriums would still see renovations.

Additional differences between the initial and renewed proposals include the elimination of electronic signs and outside seating area near the junior high school cafeteria at H. Frank Carey.

District officials maintain that the total value of the bond may be reduced further based on the amount of work that will be done by way of an energy performance contract, which is still to be determined. The average cost to taxpayers, which would have been nearly $144 per year for three or four years had the $99 million proposal passed, has also not been determined.

The renewed bond proposal will be put to a vote on May 20, along with the district’s budget proposal for 2014-15.