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Northport-East Northport schools residents approve $40M bond

Residents in the Northport-East Northport School District passed a $40 million bond referendum Tuesday by a vote of 2,802 to 1,025 — with 73 percent in favor of funding extensive upgrades to infrastructure, athletic fields and classrooms.

The vote clears one of the final hurdles for the 15-year bond, which would raise residents’ taxes about $122 a year, based on a $3,800 average property tax assessment, officials said.

Now the district must submit plans to the State Education Department and wait for the agency’s approval.

Superintendent Robert Banzer issued a statement late Tuesday thanking all residents for voting and those who supported the referendum.

“Through this support, we will be able to make improvements that will enhance our instructional learning, upgrade our physical education and athletic facilities for students and the greater community, and make needed infrastructure improvements that are long overdue,” Banzer said.

The outcome was a victory for the board and Banzer, who started at the district in July 2015 — as the board was in the early stages of the more than yearlong process of research and community education that led up to the bond proposal.

The bond would be used to replace or repair HVAC and electrical systems, bathrooms and leaky windows. It would also upgrade student spaces, including 18 science classrooms, and install artificial turf on several athletic fields.

State school aid will cover nearly 28 percent, or $12.9 million, of the upgrades.

Northport resident George Jackson, also a middle school soccer coach, said he voted for the bond because it was “past time” for many of the improvements the proposal called for — particularly at the athletic fields.

“I think it passed overwhelmingly because it’s a new generation,” he said. “It’s the kids from 30 years ago [voting] as parents now, who are more involved.”

But Jackson said he was concerned about how the district’s classrooms and athletic fields had deteriorated, and said the board will have to do better going forward to care for the campuses once all the improvements are made.

“It’s like having a house and never painting it,” he said.

The board sought the bond approval and associated tax increase at the same time the district is facing financial uncertainty over a lawsuit by the Long Island Power Authority, which is claiming it has been over-assessed in taxes, much of which goes to the district.

The district’s past five budgets have stayed within the state-mandated tax levy cap.

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