At a public meeting on Dec. 11, Rockville Centre Board of Education trustees unanimously agreed to continue working on the school improvement bond issue, despite losing more than a month of planning time.
The trustees, along with District Superintendent Dr. William Johnson, discussed whether it would make more sense to try to finalize the bond issue by March, after which the school budget would become the main discussion, or to wait to present the bond issue to the public in October.
According to Johnson, passing the bond — which would address outstanding infrastructure issues at the district’s buildings — by March would allow more work to be done by the summer of 2014, because implementing construction plans could take up to 12 months.
“It enables us, probably, to get through the State Education Department,” Johnson said, “since there is about a 12-month period between the time you actually pass the bond and when you can commence actual work on any of the projects that we require State Education Department approval.”
He said that getting the bond passed in March would likely make more sense, because the district has never held meaningful discussions during the summer months, when many parents, faculty and staff are away on vacation.
When trustees decided that the bond should be finalized by March, they realized that an extra meeting would have to be added to the current schedule, after Jan. 15. They would need to meet to hear the recommendations of BBS, the Patchogue architectural firm contracted by the village, as well as comments from members of the public.
The meeting dates set for discussion of the bond are Jan. 8, 15 and 22. According to state law, a bond must be finalized and advertised 45 days before it can be put to a vote on March 19. The original meeting dates had been set for Nov. 5 and Nov. 20, allowing for a vote in January.
“We would have normally had that meeting to talk about the bond,” said Board President Liz Dion, “but nobody could focus on the bond [given] what happened to our residents and our students after the hurricane.”
The board determined that the bond vote should be no later than March because, Dion said, “After that, we really need to be fully talking about budget.” She acknowledged that the trustees were concerned about discussing two big issues at the same, but, she added, “I think the overriding concern was, we need to work on our facilities, and putting it off until October means we lose that much more time to do the repairs we want to do.”
Even with the added meeting, trustees said, they know that finalizing the bond will be a challenge. Their hope, according to Dion, is to have the bond mostly completed in the first two meetings so that the third can be used as a final review.
“I think we have to go through everything by day two, and then day three is simply cleanup and we need a resolution,” she said. “By Jan. 15, we’ll have our basic number.”