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Uniondale school district sets March 15 vote on bond issue

The $158 million plan would add 112 classrooms to stem overcrowding and eliminate use of portable units and basements as spaces for instruction.

A basement classroom in Northern Parkway Elementary School

A basement classroom in Northern Parkway Elementary School in the Uniondale school district on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Uniondale school district has scheduled a March 15 vote on a $158 million borrowing plan after residents rejected a $199 million bond issue in December.

District officials said new classrooms, as well as infrastructure and technology upgrades, are needed to deal with surging enrollment and cramped quarters in the system, which has more than 7,200 students.

Over the past five years, enrollment has grown by 940 students, the district has said, and another 700-plus are projected over the next decade.

Voters on Dec. 7 refused to authorize the larger bond issue, which would have had a 20-year term, by a tally of 1,041-830.

Under the new proposal, 112 classrooms would be added — 19 fewer than originally planned. In addition, the slimmed-down bond issue would limit the installation of air conditioning to new construction and common spaces and scale back on new gymnasiums and turf fields.

Use of basement space for classrooms and portable classrooms would be eliminated, the district said. Currently, 12 basement classrooms and 10 portable structures are in use.

If the bond issue wins authorization, taxpayers would pay $23.11 a month for the average home assessed at $350,000, school officials said. Under the $199 million bond issue that was rejected, that estimate was $26.30 per month.

Superintendent William K. Lloyd, in a statement, said that the December defeat gave administrators “additional context” to “develop a new plan that we feel would more effectively satisfy the evolving needs of our community, while still meeting our district’s overarching infrastructure and spatial needs.”

Officials, he said, “have taken substantial strides to lessen the burden on taxpayers . . . while still accommodating surging enrollment within the district.”

Existing classrooms would be renovated to accommodate the STEAM curriculum — that is, courses in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Revisions to the proposal have had an effect, said Olga Hernandez, 69, president of the Lawrence Road Middle School PTSA, who has two grandchildren in district schools. Hernandez said she voted against the December bond issue but supports the new one.

“This time around, I feel more comfortable with the bond,” she said. “The district took into consideration all the suggestions that were made by parents and PTAs to make the bond more palatable.”

Uniondale is among several school systems that have proposed a new bond issue months after a previous one has been rejected. For example, voters in the Great Neck district rejected an $85.9 million bond issue in February 2017. A $68.3 million proposal passed in May.

Uniondale district officials said that 56.9 percent of the bond would be financed with funds from state aid and a Smart Schools grant would cover an additional 2.4 percent.

Commercial taxpayers would be on the hook for 24 percent of the bond’s cost, and residential homeowners would pay 16.7 percent.

Addie Blanco-Harvey, 44, whose 5-year-old daughter is in kindergarten, said she hopes the community will take advantage of what she described as a substantial state-aid package.

“It’s an overcrowding issue. We need rebuilding. We need to add more space to alleviate our capacity issues,” she said.

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