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Oceanside school voters reject $50 million bond proposal

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Residents in the Oceanside School District voted down a proposed $50 million bond for a capital project on Nov. 12.

The referendum failed by just over 500 votes, with 961 residents favoring it and 1,482 residents opposing it.

The bond would have funded district-wide up-grades of ventilation systems, including the installation of new heating and air-conditioning units, as well as related electrical upgrades and reconstruction.

“Many people came forward to request that the school district explore the potential for undertaking this project,” Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington said in a statement. “It was a community decision, and the voters have spoken.”

Donna Kraus, the district’s public information officer, said she did not anticipate school officials revisiting the proposal or scaling back the projects to float another bond, because there was no way to cut costs and still get the work done. She noted that all units and systems in the nine district buildings had to be replaced, and that the district would do what it could to improve the systems without the bond.

“Little up-grades that can be done over time will be done,” Kraus said, “but we are where we are.” She added that the bond was proposed after a growing number of students and staff requested air-conditioned rooms, some citing medical needs.

Reacting to a request for voters’ comments on Facebook, Dave DeDonna said he voted against the bond for financial reasons. “We are sick of paying the highest taxes around,” he said.

The estimated impact on taxes for the plan was $11.95 per month over 15 years for homes assessed at average value by the county assessor, according to Jerel Cokley, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and operations. Cokley said that if a home were assessed at $600,000, the estimated total tax increase for a proposed bond of 15 years would have been $2,150 per home.

The bond project also qualified for state building aid, which meant New York state would have reimbursed the district for 45 percent of total construction costs. That money would have been added to the district’s revenue in future years’ budgets—partially offsetting district expenses and minimizing the project’s overall tax impact.

Only a few classrooms have AC units, so the project would have replaced existing ventilation units with new ones that could have cooled and heated classrooms, and added split AC and heat ventilators for small offices.

Part of the project would have also included the installation of new rooftop HVAC units, which required upgrades to the buildings’ electrical service. As a result, the schools would have needed ceiling reconstruction and installation of sheet rock cases to conceal new piping.

The bond proposal was the first one put out to vote by the district in 15 years, when voters approved a $30 million plan for maintenance in and around each of the buildings, which included upgrades to flooring, boilers and playgrounds.

The upgrades were slated to start in summer 2020 and would have taken about five years to complete.