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$120 million bond proposal includes building improvements, safety upgrades

Proposed projects at the Smithtown school district would

Proposed projects at the Smithtown school district would include installation of HVAC systems and replacement of windows if voters approve a $120 million bond. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Smithtown Central School District voters will decide Tuesday on a $120 million bond proposal, the district’s first in 20 years, that would fund a long list of improvements including building and safety upgrades.

The proposal would replace expiring debt, so would not increase property taxes, district officials said.

Projects covered under the bond include installation of HVAC systems, replacement of windows, doors and water heaters and upgrades to fire alarm systems. according to a district mailer. Some auditoriums would get new seats, lighting and sound systems. The proposal also would fund replacement of tracks and synthetic turf fields at both district high schools, and install synthetic turf baseball and softball infields.

Not on the list: districtwide air-conditioning, a hot topic in a year of pandemic mask requirements which a district consultant, architect Robert Cascone of Port Jefferson-based JAG Architects, said could cost between $60 million to $70 million.

"It’s the most asked-for thing," Cascone said at a Sept. 21 bond forum at the district's New York Avenue headquarters. But stand-alone window units may not bring in the amount of fresh air that New York State requires, and condensation problems can result in a "mold-fest" for classrooms, he said.

Retrofitting school buildings for air conditioning is possible but sometimes difficult and running air conditioning through uninsulated heating and ventilation ducts can also result in mold, he said.

"We had to cut somewhere and we took health and safety priorities — ventilation, health and safety as a priority before air conditioning," he said.

The district will be able to add air conditioning to the new HVAC systems in the future, Cascone said.

Andrew Tobin, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said at the forum that the district was "in the best financial shape it’s been in 15 years." The district cannot, though, pay for the upgrades by dipping into reserve funds created for other purposes, he said.

Tobin said the work is expected to take about five years because much of it must take place when schools are not in use: nights and about eight weeks each summer.

Voting will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. To find their polling place, district residents can use a voter location tool on the district website.

The vote will be the first since a school board vote last spring that brought three new trustees onto the board. District leaders have done public outreach including two bond forums and videos posted on the district Facebook page that feature interviews with a school principal and the district athletic director with what appears to be drone footage of district ballfields.

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