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Long IslandTowns

Lindenhurst school district proposes $25M bond for building repairs

Lindenhurst school district officials are proposing to bond for $25 million to make what they said are crucial repairs to district buildings.

But dozens of residents at a workshop Wednesday night challenged plans to use some of the money to repair a school that the district has considered selling.

District architect John Grillo said most of the bonding is attributed to a need for new roofs on buildings throughout the district. Of the 758,186 square feet of roofs, only 74,318 square feet is still under warranty, he said, and chronic leaks are present throughout the schools.

The roof work is divided into three phases, with the high school, middle school and Harding Avenue Elementary School given top priority. Phase two targets the five other elementary schools and the McKenna Administration building. Phase three would replace roofs on two former elementary schools, Bower, which the district has tried to sell, and Kellum.

The estimated cost of all roof replacement is $19.6 million, he said.

School officials are also looking to replace an 80-year-old steam heating system in the middle school. Grillo cited nonworking thermostats and an inability to verify the amount of fresh air coming into the school. The cost of that work is estimated to be $4.4 million.

In addition, the district wants to replace windows at the middle school at a cost of $641,000, and repair the clock tower atop the school at a cost of $185,000.

Superintendent Daniel Giordano said that if the district bonds for the full amount, the annual tax increase for residents whose homes are assessed at an average of $4,500 would be $109.51.

Residents bristled at the increase, with many noting the continued struggles of those recovering from superstorm Sandy. John Lisi, president of the Daniel Street Civic Association, also noted the potential loss of Sandy-damaged homes to the tax rolls, the impact of a veterans' tax exemption that is being considered by the board and other unknowns that could drive up tax bills.

Lisi, like many others, urged the district to sell Bower, saying "to spend any money on repairs for it is ludicrous."

The board last year voted to put Bower on the market and earlier this year received several offers -- largely for senior housing -- ranging from $2.8 million to $5.2 million -- but didn't pursue them. The building is partially leased, but the district pays more than $150,000 per year for maintenance.

Jacqueline Scrio, assistant superintendent for business and noninstructional personnel, stressed the importance of the district's roof replacements, saying "I wouldn't want to live in a home with leaks going into garbage pails and I don't think our students should have to go to school with that either."

Scrio recommended borrowing the money in stages, first bonding for $8 million and completing the first phase of roofing, delaying "the hit to taxpayers for two years" when payments would increase.

The board must first approve an amount of bonding and then a special voter referendum will be held, officials said.

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