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Voters OK $27.7 million bond for East Rockaway schools

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Voters in the East Rockaway School District approved a $27.7 million bond on Nov. 14 to fund upgrades and repairs to all three district buildings. The bond referendum was approved 350 votes to 200.
“The board and I would like to thank the community for their support of this bond,” Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ruiz said. “It will bring much-needed renovation and re-pair to our aging facilities and enhance opportunities for our students into the future.” Projects that the bond will fund include: —Raising the high school’s athletic field and installation of a synthetic-turf field. —New bleachers and a press box at the high school. —Installation of about 750 feet of bulkhead to protect the fields from Mill River. —Exterior masonry work at Centre Avenue Elementary School. —Renovation of art, science, and family and consumer science classrooms at the high school. —District-wide improvements to heating, ventilation, electrical and air-conditioning units. —Alterations to the high school’s technology building to create four single restrooms for use during outdoor community and sporting events. According to Jacqueline Scrio, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, officials have yet to determine which projects will be prioritized first. She added that administrators would work with the district architect to review projects and ascertain the estimated time required for their approval from the State Education Department in the coming months. “Once we determine this, we will work closely with our financial adviser and map out the best strategy to phase in the projects,” Scrio said. The bond will fund upgrades to Centre Avenue and Rhame Avenue elementary schools, in addition to the high school. Officials will also use $6.2 million in capital reserves to offset the cost of the work. In September, Scrio said the cost of the bond for a homeowner with an average assessed home value would be $251 a year. “This calculation is strictly for the projects that will be included in the 2019 bond, and does not take into account the debt service that is retiring,” she said. Had the bond failed, the average homeowner would have seen a tax reduction of $140 annually beginning in 2021-22, and $71 in 2023-24, after an $18.7 million bond that voters approved in 2005 expired. The bond’s financial impact on taxpayers depends, in part, on the potential financial help the district will receive from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for the Living with the Bay initiative. LWTB is a state project, undertaken after Hurricane Sandy, to improve storm resiliency along Mill River, which runs from Hempstead Lake south to Hewlett Bay. In the project at East Rockaway High, a bulkhead will be constructed on school property where it meets Mill River, along with drainage pipes that would run under the athletic fields. The bulkhead, officials said, will reduce flooding at the school. GOSR is considering whether to pay for the Living with the Bay portion of the bonded project, which would cover the bulkheading and drainage pipes under the playing field. If the state were to provide the $2.6 million for that part of the project, local taxpayers would pay nothing additional now that the bond was approved. If it did not, however, the cost for the average home would be $41 per year to help cover the work. Thehbia Hiwot, the executive director of NY Rising Housing Recovery, Buyout and Acquisition Programs, told the Herald in October that GOSR was “working closely with the school district to finalize an adjusted scope of work and project management agreement.” School officials have long sought to build a new bulkhead near the football fields as water from nearby Mill River inches closer to the area due to erosion. “It will bring peace of mind to our taxpayers, as the shoreline continues to approach our press box and field each day,” Ruiz said of the bond being approved. “We can now begin the final stage of raising up our field, installing bulkhead and bringing back a track for this community.”