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Thursday, November 20, 2014
I.P. school vote set for May 21
Propositions address budget, rebuilding after Sandy
Howard Schwach

At Island Park’s school budget vote on May 21, voters will be asked to approve five propositions. Three of them would finance restoration of the community’s schools and library, which were devastated six months ago by the raging floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy.

Proposition 1 addresses next year’s school budget. Superintendent Rosemarie Bovino pointed out in a message to the community that the proposed tax levy increase is 3.24 percent, which is below the allowable cap for the district.

Proposition 2 concerns the contracts with the two high schools that Island Park students are eligible to attend, Long Beach and West Hempstead. The contracts are necessary, because Island Park has no high school of its own.

Under the arrangements, Island Park pays West Hempstead High a yearly tuition of $18,649 per student, and Long Beach, $18,994. Records show that while the majority of students once opted for West Hempstead, more than 50 percent of eighth-graders in Island Park now chose Long Beach for their high school education.

Propositions 3 and 4 address the use of the district’s reserve funds for Sandy remediation projects. Proposition 3 would utilize $300,000 of the Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve and $282,000 of the Repair fund, and reduce the amount of money the district must borrow, Bovino said.

Voter approval of the propositions would empty the Repair reserve, but would leave $1.6 million in the EBALR fund.

Proposition 5, which authorizes a bond issue of $5.1 million, is perhaps the most controversial. “The damages caused by Sandy and the expenses required to fully restore the schools and the public library prompted the [school] board to issue a bond,” Bovino said. “Approximately $4.5 million [worth of] work remains. The board knows that property owners have suffered great economic hardships this year. By paying off the principal and interest over 15 years, the impact on taxpayers is minimized.”

In addition to repairing Sandy damage, $478,250 of the money from the bond would fund a safety and security project that will connect each of the school buildings directly with the Nassau County Police Department through a fiber optic network hosted by Nassau County BOCES.

Bovino said that the bond proposal is an alternative to piercing the state tax-levy cap. “To raise an additional $1 million in revenue, the tax levy increase would have to be … 6.86 percent,” she said. “In order to generate $5 million, the tax levy would have to be raised to 19.90 percent, which would raise each homeowner’s tax rate by at least 20 to 25 percent.”

Paying off the bond, she added, would cost the average taxpayer approximately $80.21 per year.

Voting on May 21 will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the foyer of the Lincoln-Orens Middle School, at 150 Trafalgar Blvd. in Island Park.

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