Nassau BOCES Jerusalem Avenue Elementary School in North Bellmore is...

Nassau BOCES Jerusalem Avenue Elementary School in North Bellmore is pictured Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau BOCES will seek voter approval for a plan to spend $12 million to buy a building in North Bellmore it currently rents, serving about 350 students with severe behavioral and developmental disabilities from across the county.

The agency has leased the Jerusalem Avenue School from the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District for 20 years, incurring rental expenses passed on to all 56 school districts in Nassau.

The vote is scheduled to take place on Feb. 8. All voters in Nassau County are eligible to take part.

If approved, officials estimate a savings of about $1.4 million in the 2018-19 school year and in all subsequent years — recovering the $12 million price tag in about nine years.

The sale would include a 133,000-square-foot school building and the 16-acre property on which it sits.

“This is a better deal for everybody. When we own the building, we can reinvest to improve the infrastructure. We look at it as an investment for all of Nassau County. It’s a win-win-win all the way around,” Nassau BOCES Superintendent Robert Dillon said Wednesday.

The purchase will be made with funds in the Nassau BOCES Capital Fund that have been set aside specifically for this purpose. No borrowing or debt service expense will be incurred so the impact of the savings will be immediate, officials said.

Voter approval is required under state education law. There are eight polling sites and voters will be able to go to any one between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Absentee ballots are also available by calling the Nassau BOCES district clerk. The deadline for absentee ballots is Jan. 31.

About 30 residents in the North Bellmore and Merrick area who attended a Nov. 28 forum to discuss the sale of the property were generally in favor, according to Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association.

“We didn’t have any problems with the deal except there was a group who questioned whether $12 million for that property was undervaluing it,” Borecky said.

There are currently two programs housed in the school: the Jerusalem Avenue Elementary Program and the Children’s Readiness Center.

The students in both programs have educational needs not provided in their home school districts. They are elementary school age with severe learning disabilities and emotional needs, some requiring a one-on-one student-teacher ratio.

“These kids are our most severely needy kids. It’s not that the districts don’t want them — of course the goal is always for special-education students to be in the least restrictive environment — but we must respond to the needs of the 56 districts we serve.”

Last year, Nassau BOCES gained voter approval to purchase the Carman Road School in Massapequa Park for $9 million. The move saves about $900,000 in annual rent.

BOCES had been renting that school since 1979 to educate about 160 of the county’s most severely physically disabled students.

Where to vote

Here are the polling locations for the Feb. 8 vote planned by Nassau BOCES:

  • Carman Road School at 1 Carmans Rd. in Massapequa Park
  • Center for Community Adjustment, Rosemary Kennedy Center at 2850 N. Jerusalem Rd. in Wantagh
  • George Farber Administrative Center, 71 Clinton Rd. in Garden City
  • Iris Wolfson High School, 21 Chestnut St. in Greenvale
  • Jerusalem Avenue School, 2351 Jerusalem Ave. in North Bellmore
  • Joseph M. Barry Career & Technical Education Center, 1196 Prospect Ave. in Westbury
  • Long Island High School for the Arts, 239 Cold Spring Rd. in Syosset
  • Robert E. Lupinskie Center for Curriculum, Instruction and Technology, 1 Merrick Ave. in Westbury

Source: Nassau BOCES

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