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Voters to decide on $50M borrowing for school district upgrades

Sanford H. Calhoun High School is one of

Sanford H. Calhoun High School is one of three high schools in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. (Aug. 2, 2011) Credit: T.C. McCarthy

The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District has asked residents to approve nearly $50 million in borrowing for facility upgrades that district officials say are critical -- and some residents say are too extravagant.

Residents of the 5,800-student district will vote Dec. 2 on the district's proposal to finance $49.9 million to pay for renovations to all five of its schools.

The project includes a battery of improvements to the schools, including installing five new science labs and five synthetic athletic fields and overhauling the district's heating and air-conditioning systems.

The district's schools were built between 1936 and 1966 and are in need of renovations, Superintendent John DeTommaso said. He said the state would fund $26.9 million of the project, leaving the owner of an average home in the district to pay $104 per year for 15 years to pay off the bond.

DeTommaso said he hopes the district can start work by next summer.

"We feel it's critical at this point because the buildings and the facilities really need an upgrade," DeTommaso said. "We're confidant that we'll get generations of use out of these buildings."

Merrick resident Robert Dann, who leads a group of about 150 residents who oppose the bond, said he believes the plan is too extravagant. The plan for turf fields, which accounts for more than $6 million of the plan, is unnecessary, he said.

But Dann said he could support a scaled-down version of the plan.

"It's absolutely critical to be financially straightforward with the taxpayers and to be frugal with the money," Dann said. "It doesn't make good business sense."

The bond issue would be the district's first since 1964, when the district borrowed money to build John F. Kennedy High School, DeTommaso said. It would be the district's first bond to rehabilitate buildings in its history, he said.

Voting is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Shore Road School, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Norman J. Levy Lakeside School, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Newbridge Road School, and 2 to 10 p.m. at Harold D. Fayette School.

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