Now that voters in the Lynbrook School District have approved a $28.9 million bond proposal — 1,254 to 710 — in an Oct. 3 vote, members of the Board of Education will begin working toward upgrading the district’s buildings, pending approval from the State Education Department.
“We are grateful to the Lynbrook community for their continued support,” Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak said in a news release. “The approval of the bond referendum will enable us to expand, enhance and enrich the three core areas — academics, the arts and athletics.”
The bond was the second that the district put up for a vote in the past two years. The first, for $46 million, was defeated in March 2016.
The most recent bond will fund three new science classrooms; a larger science research facility; new classrooms for the chorus, band and orchestra; a new classroom for the Career Development Program; a school store, where students will learn how to run a business; and renovations to the auditorium. Many of the new rooms will be housed in a two-story, 33,274-square-foot addition to the high school. Middle school locker rooms will be updated, air conditioning will be added to the elementary and middle school gyms, and the wrestling room at the Lynbrook Kindergarten Center, across from the high school, will be refurbished.
Before the renovations begin, however, the State Education Department has to review the bond, according to state law. District administrators will likely send the plans to Albany in early 2018, William Belmont, the Board of Education president, said, though he could give no additional information because decisions have not yet been finalized. Burak was unavailable to comment on the process, and said the district was sticking to its statement for now.
“Any delays at this point will be at the hands of the government, not us,” Belmont said.
Once the plans are approved, the board will put out a request for proposals to hire contractors. After the board finds a company, it will set up a timeline for repairs, according to Burak’s statement.
“Smaller projects such as the air conditioning, locker room replacement and wrestling room renovations will be realized earlier than the addition to the high school,” Burak said. “We will work as swiftly as we can to move the entire package along.”
The total cost of the bond is $33.9 million; $5 million of that is covered by reserves. The average homeowner will see an estimated annual increase of $168 in school taxes. The formula for homeowners can be calculated at lynbrookschools.org by accessing the “District” tab, clicking “Bond Information” and then “Fast Financial Facts.”
The bond received mixed reviews from residents. Some said they believe paying more taxes is worth it to ensure that students get an education in the proper facilities, while others noted that living in Nassau County is already expensive enough.
“I know higher taxes are hard to swallow, but there are critical updates that need to be made,” Eileen Hynes wrote in response to a Herald inquiry on Facebook. “[I] think the district did a very good job detailing to the community the needs.”
Ivy Reilly, another resident, was also supportive of the bond. “The approval of the bond is a first step in equipping the Lynbrook School District with the facilities that our children need to meet the demands of the 21st century,” she wrote. “Renovations and improvements to our schools are long overdue.”
But Reilly added that she was upset that the bond did not include a larger auditorium, which was a feature of the first bond proposal. The board found that 45.7 percent of respondents in a post-bond survey in September 2016 said that a new auditorium was unnecessary. The board instead opted to renovate the existing auditorium by adding better lighting, new seating, and improving the acoustics.
Other residents were more critical of the bond. Ed Farrell wrote that higher taxes would result in more residents leaving Lynbrook, and Billy Mirenberg wrote that the district would not need the bond if more of its budget were allocated to curriculum. “… This bond is indicative of the wasteful, frivolous culture in the district which seems to serve the wants of the staff, not the students,” Mirenberg wrote.
The 2017-18 budget shows that administrative costs comprise about 9 percent of the total budget and the program costs are about 88 percent.
Leading up to the vote, Burak, high school Principal Joseph Rainis and other district officials said they thought the bond was necessary because many facilities are outdated and there are space issues, especially in the high school. They said they were optimistic about the bond because it would modernize buildings and it would allow students to reach their full potential.