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Long IslandEducation

Voters reject South Huntington school bond issues

Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Joseph Centamore at Stimson Middle

Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Joseph Centamore at Stimson Middle School on Sept. 6 touring some of the run-down spaces that would have been transformed through the project. Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Voters on Monday handily rejected a two-part proposal that would have pumped $115 million into South Huntington schools.

After filing steadily into Walt Whitman High School, the majority of voters said they could not support so-called Vision 2020, the catchy name for a bond issue with two parts that split voters into two camps, both with passionately held arguments.

The debate raged on Facebook pages and in community forums leading up to the vote.

Voters were split 2,738 against the first proposal that would upgrade a host of facilities to 1,486 in support of it, school officials said after the vote. Voters defeated the second proposal for an upgrade in air conditioning by a spread of 2,654 to 1,563.

Board of Education President Nicholas R. Ciappetta issued a statement Monday night after the vote, saying: “The community has spoken. While we are disappointed with the outcome, we are heartened that over 4,200 members of the South Huntington community expressed their passion and made their voices heard by participating in this process." 

Supporters said the schools needed an upgrade to remain competitive with neighboring districts while detractors said the package was too expensive and might not yield results for years.

"I said yes to both," said Dianne Rothgaber, a 20-year resident of the district who spoke in front of Cub Scout Pack 406's popcorn stand. "It's a good cause. In the long run, I think everything they proposed is worthwhile — so they raise money in taxes a little. It's still a good thing."

Another voter declined to be interviewed but said flatly that he voted against it before walking off to his car as other voters raced to cast their ballots.

Voting for residents was held at the high school from noon until 9 p.m.

Alain Lanz said it was "easy" to support the proposals.

"I think it's good for the district," the 21-year district resident said after voting inside of the gymnasium. "I think it's good for homeowners. . . . If it's going to give our kids the opportunity to have a better chance at succeeding, that's our responsibility." 

The district's plan, Vision 2020, was split into two parts. Proposition 1 covered about $86 million for upgrades and renovations to schools in the nearly 6,000-student district. Proposition 2 covered about $29 million for air conditioning in classrooms, gyms and cafeterias.

Voters could have approved the first and the second proposal, or just the first. If both proposals had been approved, residents on average would have paid about $52 extra in property taxes annually in the first year of repayment and up to $363 in peak years.

The bond issue would have impacted all district facilities and include projects such as adding security vestibules to buildings throughout the district; upgrading to artificial turf on athletic fields; building a baseball/softball complex for student athletes; installing automatic door locks; creating a center for senior citizens; providing science and technology labs at each building; and updating most infrastructure, such as parking lots, roofs and windows.

Proposition 1 consisted of more than $18.1 million for athletic, co-curricular and community projects; $31.9 million for academics, arts and research; $22.4 million for safety and security, and more than $13.4 million for infrastructure.

The second proposition — at a cost of about $28.8 million — covered the installation of air conditioning in classrooms, gymnasiums, offices and cafeterias.

Work would have begun in summer 2020.

With Joie Tyrrell

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