Schools

School district, library to hold joint bond March 7

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After months of hosting public discussions and presentations, the East Meadow School District and the East Meadow Public Library will hold a joint bond referendum vote on March 7 at all elementary schools in the district. 

If passed, the $58.8 million joint bond, which schools Superintendent Leon Campo hails as “historic and the first of its kind,” will target infrastructure improvements in the school district and at the library. 

The bulk of the school district’s $44.2 million portion of the bond would be earmarked for roof and skylight repairs, air and ventilation equipment and electrical infrastructure upgrades. The library’s $14.6 million portion would fund removal of asbestos floor tile, pipe insulation, installation of a new elevator and the construction of a large community room and outdoor reading garden.

School officials said that if the bond passes, the average East Meadow household’s property taxes would increase $57.53 per year for 15 years. “It’s quite the modest figure,” Campo said. “Because if the library was to hold its own vote separate from the district, that figure would be much higher.” 

The district’s plans include installing air conditioning district-wide in all lunch and all-purpose rooms, both Fibar replacement at the play structures and asphalt basketball court replacement at Meadowbrook Elementary School, supporting district-wide science initiatives and renovating music rooms at East Meadow and Clarke high schools. 

Patrick Pizzo, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said that $6.3 million would be used to renovate and upgrade fields. “The sports program in our district is tremendous,” Pizzo said.

“We’re looking to replace tennis courts at Clarke and East Meadow High schools, upgrade the soccer and softball fields at East Meadow High and place a new field at Woodland Middle School.”

If the bond passes, the district plans to install natural grass football/multipurpose fields at East Meadow High School, W.T. Clarke High School and Woodland Middle School. All field renovations will be a restoration of the natural grass fields, and Campo and Pizzo said that the district does not plan to install turf fields. Pizzo said that because of health concerns associated with turf fields, the district will opt for natural grass instead.

Because the district does not currently have a standard track, Campo said that track and field athletes have always competed at away meets but if the bond passes, that will change. “We will also be putting in a new track field at the Campo Center so our athletes can compete at home,” he said. “We can finally let our athletes stay here in their hometown, which will give them a little extra boost, and parents will be able to cheer their children on from home sidelines.” 

The district and the library held several forums and open presentations in December and January. Campo said that parents and residents have voiced both support for and concern about the bond. “We’ve heard it all,” Campo said. 

Although the bulk of the bond is intended to repair school infrastructure in buildings that Pizzo said are more than 60 years old, East Meadow resident Adam Sackowitz, 25, said that the district lacks transparency. “They really should tell residents how much money, in total, their taxes will go up for the 15 years the bond is in effect,” said Sackowitz, who ran for the board but was not elected in 2015.

Campo said that the district could not be more transparent. “Anyone can go to our website and access handouts where professional engineers have worked tirelessly for hours every day for months to put together a comprehensive and real list of figures,” he said. “Every piece of information is on packets provided by the district either online, or at the Campo Center.”

“No question has been left unanswered in the packets,” Pizzo added. 

“Call us,” Campo said. “I am happy to speak with anyone and answer every question.”

Although Sackowitz said he agrees with infrastructure repairs and the addition of a community room at the library, he added that he does not endorse a new reading garden. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to ask families, many of which are struggling to make ends meet each month, to pay for a courtyard,” he said.

Rocco Cassano, the library’s assistant director, said the facility currently has no outdoor seating area. “We always get requests from patrons who want to enjoy the nice weather if we can put chairs or tables outside,” Cassano said. “The outdoor reading garden will be a great addition, because our patrons not only will be able to enjoy reading outside, but the library can host programs and events in a safe area where children can run around.” 

If the bond passes, the garden will be open to all community members during library hours, Cassano said. He added that since the library has not done any major renovations since 1983, “It’s time to upgrade basic things like replacing the 30-year-old oil tank with energy-efficient gas-fired boilers, replace windows to allow more sunlight in and regrade and reconfigure the parking lot to address the flooding problem in the parking lot.” 

Cassano said that the addition of the 250-tiered-seat community room and outdoor garden would not affect the amount of parking spaces. “It’s really a great opportunity for the library to get the upgrade it needs,” he said. 

“We firmly believe that if we upgrade our library, our school and reading community will benefit greatly,” Campo said. “When a community upgrades its school and library facilities, it adds more value to that community.”

For detials of the bond issue, visit the school district's website, www.eastmeadow.k12.ny.us