Voters will have the final say, in a Dec. 5 special election, on whether the Central High School District will sell the Jerusalem Avenue school building to Nassau BOCES for $12 million.
Nassau BOCES has leased the 16-acre property for 19 years, and according to Central District officials, no longer wants to rent.
Central District Superintendent John DeTommaso has pushed for the sale, which was supported unanimously by the Board of Education, since March, promising that the proceeds would be used to minimize future tax burdens.
“As superintendent of schools, I believe that the board’s decision to sell the building to BOCES is in the district and community’s best interest,” DeTommaso said in a district-wide letter.
If district voters in turn down the sale, DeTommaso said, BOCES will likely walk away from renewing its lease, which would leave the district with a revenue hole, as well as a vacant building.
“That would be very problematic, if we had an empty building,” DeTommaso said. “It comes with a lot of issues, there’s no doubt about it.”
Should the sale go through, the $12 million would be put into a reserve fund that the Board of Education would use for programs, and would help lessen future tax levy increases, according to DeTommaso.
He also said that the impact would be positive, because the district would no longer be responsible for upkeep on the aging building, where, every time there is a boiler issue, it’s “basically a $50,000 job for the district.”
“It needs a ton of work . . . We’ve just basically been maintaining it since 1987, without putting any real money into it,” DeTomasso said. “We’re responsible as the landowners. We’ve had issues with our own buildings of the same age with heat, which is why we now have new systems in all our buildings. Jerusalem Avenue is the same age, but we haven’t installed new systems, so you can imagine what the maintenance is.”
The football field and track would remain under the district’s control if the sale were to go forward, and the district would also continue to have access to restrooms, parking areas and the gymnasium for special athletic and outdoor events. For the different groups that use the gym and field, DeTommaso said that the only change would be that paperwork would be filed through BOCES and not the district.
“If you compare it to other deals that’ve been made, it’s a very fair deal for Bellmore-Merrick,” he said.
Claudia Borecky, of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association — which was set to hold a community forum to discuss the vote on Tuesday, after the Herald went to press, along with the South Merrick, South Bellmore and North Bellmore Civic Associations — said last week that her only concern was what might happen to the land once it is out of the district’s control.
“On its face, it sounds good, but I’m concerned that once we sell it, what will they do?” Borecky said. “Do they plan on developing any of the land? Otherwise, I think it’s a great idea. It’ll save taxpayers money, and it’s still keeping the fields. We’ve always used the public fields, so that sounds great.”
The vote on the potential sale will take place on Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Central District’s regular polling locations.