This chemistry lab is completely outdated at Carrie Palmer Weber...

This chemistry lab is completely outdated at Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, in Port Washington is one area that needs to be improved, March 4, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Voters in the Port Washington school district approved a nearly $70 million bond issue on Tuesday, securing repairs for district facilities.

The referendum passed 2,294 to 2,055.

The $69,877,198 referendum drew criticism from taxpayers concerned about the scope of the work and the timing of the vote. Critics and good-government advocates say bond votes should be held in May, along with votes for the operating budget and school board members, when turnout is expected to be greatest. State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) on Monday proposed legislation to that effect.

School officials have said the projects often need to be approved before the May budget votes, so officials can more efficiently plan their year's budgets. For instance, if proposed work is rejected, officials would have time to rework a budget to cover those projects.

In a statement, board member Karen Sloan said: "We are extremely grateful to our parents and community residents for their support and confidence. We fully believe the approved bond addresses our facilities' needs and represents the best interest of our children and our community."

Frank J. Russo Jr., president of the Port Washington Educational Assembly, a taxpayer group, said scheduling the vote in March was an effort to "lower the turnout."

Russo said, while he understood the need for the capital projects, some could be covered under the operating budget.

About $50 million of the total will fund new construction and major renovations to facilities, including science labs, athletic fields, and music rooms. Air-conditioning units are to be added to each school's common area.

Board member Alan Baer has said the average household will continue to pay between $375 and $400 in debt service until 2040. Residents already pay that amount to cover a 2001 bond for which payments end in 2023.

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