Herricks voters OK $28.3 million for building projects

Herricks voters OK $28.3 million for building projects

Herricks school district voters on Tuesday approved most of the spending for a $29.5 million package of building projects that district officials say will transform Herricks schools.

Residents voted 676-165 to approve a $25 million bond and $3.3 million in spending from a capital reserve fund, allowing the district to move forward with planning for the multiyear initiative affecting all seven of its buildings. Voters will decide later whether to spend the other other $1.2 million in reserves, which the district has not yet saved.

The wide margin of victory for the spending referendum indicates residents agree the district’s aging buildings need long overdue repairs, Nancy Feinstein, the Herricks school board president, said.

“Everyone is in agreement that our students are phenomenal here, and they just need some facilities to support them, to bring them into this century,” Feinstein said.

About 60 percent of the work is “health and safety” fixes at the district’s five schools, the Herricks Community Center and Shelter Rock Academy, including new asphalt, sidewalks, doors and locks, handicap accessibility renovations and ventilation improvements.

The 68-year-old Herricks High School would get about 50 percent of the work, including major renovations to the cafeteria, athletic field, track and one science lab. A new fitness center would also be built near the school’s front entrance.

The district will now finalize a timeline for the work and set priorities for construction, Feinstein said.

A timeline for submitting plans to the state Education Department, which has a monthslong backlog in its plan review office, will be key to avoiding delays, district officials have said.

Some work, including construction of the new athletic field, could start as early as the summer of 2017, district officials have said.

All projects are expected to be complete by 2023.

The $25 million bond will not raise property taxes because it will replace existing debt from a $24 million bond set to expire in 2021. That money was borrowed in 2000 to add classrooms at its three elementary schools.

Those who voted against the spending likely opposed the borrowing in principle and did not realize it would not affect taxes, Feinstein said.

The projects were the highest priorities on an $80 million list of work identified in a districtwide building survey last year.

A committee of school board members, administrators and district residents developed the $29.5 million package and first presented it to residents in June.

 District officials toured the buildings with residents in October to show the need for the repairs, which likely helped win support for the spending, Feinstein said.

Some older residents were “shocked and appalled to see the condition of the high school that was the same as when their children had been there,” she said.

“The passage of this proposition will be transformational for Herricks, and ensure that our schools provide a safe, inviting and modern environment for our students to learn, thrive and enjoy,” Fino Celano, the Herricks school superintendent, said in a statement.

By Noah Manskar

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