Tours, community forums available ahead of the voting on Dec. 8
On October 6, after reviewing the long-term facilities planning committee’s scope of work update, the Manhasset School District Board of Education resolved to hold a public vote on the bond proposition on December 8. With two structures, the Secondary School and Munsey Park, over 80 years old, and Shelter Rock at 54 years old, many rooms and facilities are in need of repair. Additional projects were proposed to repurpose and modernize some spaces that are not being used to their full potential.
“We’ve reached the time where the scale of the work needed to maintain and further modernize our buildings requires the issuance of new bonds”, Said Dr Gaurav Passi, Superintendent of Schools, in his opening remarks.
The scope of work presentation covered the proposed projects for all three schools, broken down into categories of safety and security, infrastructure, and academic and co-curricular. Some of the safety concerns include aging doors and windows that need to be updated to better protect students. Other areas of safety include asbestos abatement and parking lot and roadway improvements. Infrastructure projects include electrical changes, heating and cooling, and remodeling bathrooms. There are a number of academic and co-curricular projects, such as remodeling auditoriums, the library, life skills and other spaces to make them more functional.
According to Dr. Joseph Dragone, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations, homeowners will be able to calculate the impact to their tax bill through a tool on the school website. There will also be a tutorial posted to help homeowners navigate the tool. The tool is currently in development and should be made available to the public after October 13.
When asked about how much work would be done during the academic year, Dr. Passi restated that most of the work would be completed during the summer, but that certain projects would require a full year, so the space would be unavailable for that time. “Large scale projects, for example, this auditorium (at Shelter Rock), the auditorium at the Secondary School, that will have to be done during the school year and during the summer. So, what that means is that the auditorium will be offline.” However, there is a contingency plan in place. “Fortunately, we have a beautiful auditorium in Munsey Park. That would be the contingency plan.”
Patricia Aitken, president of the school board, emphasized that the timeline of three to four years to completion is not set in stone. “The thing we can’t predict is the time… we are hopeful that it can be done in three to four years, but it could be four to five years.”
Passi was also guardedly optimistic about the current timeline. “We’re hopeful to be able to complete some of the projects in the summer of 2023, but because of (the lengthy approval process) it is likely that the bulk of the projects will be completed in the summer of 2024.”
There was also concern about financing the work considering the current economic climate. Passi pointed out that the district has debt that is rolling off. “So the impact to the taxpayer will be somewhat mitigated.”
Dragone provided further insight into how the district plans to navigate potential interest rate hikes. “We’ve been working with our financial advisor, Capital Markets, to get a handle as best we can on what rates will be when we actually issue these bonds. They certainly won’t be issued before the 23-24 school year…what our advisor did is (give) us an estimated debt service schedule using the current market conditions plus one percent.”
The total recommended scope of work comes to $ 43,996,484, with $10,364,310 for safety and security, $11,960,750 on infrastructure and $ 21,671,424 for academic and co-curricular projects. The average taxable assessed value of a home in Manhasset is approximately $1,400. The impact of this proposed scope of work on the school tax bill for this home would be less than $350 annually.
Now that the decision has been made to put the bond to a vote, the next step will be for the public to join the discussion. Multiple avenues will be available for members of the community to be involved in the decision-making process. There will be community forums, shared decision teams and community tours to show the areas of concern in each building.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring folks together from all constituency groups that make up our school community in service of school improvement.” Passi said.