A new artificial-turf field and an eight-lane track with steeplechase barriers and double runways would be installed at Locust Valley High School if residents approve Proposition 2 on May 18, when they vote on the Locust Valley Central School District’s proposed 2021-22 budget.
The Board of Education adopted the roughly $90 million spending plan on April 20, an increase of roughly $1 million or 1.47 percent, over the current budget. The estimated tax levy increase is 1.27 percent, below the district’s maximum allowable tax increase under the state tax cap of 1.34 percent, and the smallest increase in five years.
Proposition 2, for facilities improvements, would utilize $3.7 million in capital reserve funds, carry no cost for taxpayers and would fund the turf field and track as well as other improvements: the installation of heating and air conditioning units in the Ann MacArthur and Bayville Primary schools, renovations of faculty restrooms at Locust Valley Intermediate School, and the addition of LED lighting in classrooms and drop ceilings at Bayville Intermediate.
Rick Pisciotta, the treasurer of Falcon Pride, the district’s booster club, said the community has wanted the turf field for some time. It was included in the budget five years ago as part of a bond that did not pass. And a new track was initially included in the budget in 2019 before consultants told the district that the existing track had several years of useful life remaining, so it was pulled when the board finalized the spending plan and other projects were prioritized instead.
Of the turf field, Pisciotta said, “We are one of less than a dozen districts in the county without one. Our current field doesn’t get used much at all, because there is always a concern that it will be ripped up. There are a lot of divots, which makes for uneven playing and is dangerous for the athletes.”
LVCSD sports teams have been using a field in Centre Island, operated by the Town of Oyster Bay. Students are either bused there or drive. Because the district does not own it, Pisciotta said, there is no security, and there is competition for time with other youth organizations. The girls’ field hockey team and the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams have to play on turf, so they are bused to the Centre Island field.
Pisciotta said that the district’s existing track is in dire need of replacement. “It’s at the end of its life and only has six lanes,” he said. “If we want to host the sectional finals, for example, you have to have eight lanes. To put our hat in the ring for the playoffs, we would need steeplechase capabilities and increased areas for the long jump, triple jump and high jump. The support for the new track and turf field is overwhelming among parents.”
The proposed budget does not increase class sizes or cut programs or staff. Although there was an expectation that the district would receive less state aid from Albany, Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham said those funds were not reduced, and the district will receive roughly $4 million. It will also receive $1.1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan, which must be used by September 2024. The district is awaiting guidance from the state on how those funds can be used.
The budget will fund window and wall replacements and electrical panel upgrades at the middle and high schools, and installation of additional security cameras and other security equipment districtwide. Curriculum enhancements are also planned, including 15 new high school courses for college credits, a career exploration program offering students internships and externships, and the addition of bowling, boys’ varsity volleyball and unified basketball, with athletes with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team.
Graham said the budget reflects the feedback he received from a survey conducted last November. And, he added, “The tax levy increase is the lowest in five years, lower than many districts in the surrounding area. This is a very fiscally responsible budget for our taxpayers.”
Residents will also vote for Board of Education trustees. Two incumbents — current board President Brian T. Nolan and George Vasiliou — are running for re-election for the two open seats.
The Locust Valley Library budget will also be on the ballot. The library, which estimates it will need $85,000 for materials and $51,000 for technological expenses, is proposing a 2021-22 spending plan totaling roughly $1.5 million.
Voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Ann MacArthur Primary School, Bayville Intermediate School and the Brookville Reformed Church.