Herricks voters set to decide on capital plan

Herricks voters set to decide on capital plan

Herricks school district voters will decide Tuesday whether to spend $29.5 million on upgrades to the district’s seven buildings, including some major renovations at Herricks High School.

Two propositions will be on the ballot Dec. 6 that would allocate the first $28.3 million in spending: one to authorize $25 million in borrowing and another to let the district spend $3.3 million from a capital reserve fund. 

Residents will vote again at a later date to spend the other $1.2 million in reserves, which the district has not yet saved.

If approved, the district will take up “transformational” projects that many residents say are long overdue, said Fino Celano, the Herricks school superintendent.

“Herricks is an outstanding school district academically, and what this bond will do is it will bring our facilities to match the outstanding reputation that we have as a school district,” Celano said.

The projects in the bond vote reflect the highest priorities on that longer list, district officials say. 

A committee created the package in June and presented it to residents at three meetings in September, where it met praise from students and parents.

About 60 percent of the work is “health and safety” fixes, 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.

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 district says timing will be an important part of the building process, partly due to a backlog in the state Education Department’s plan review office, which must approve plans for school projects.

Other “moving parts” include the bidding process for contractors and the speed of actual construction, Celano said. 

The district plans to hire a construction manager to make sure the work stays on schedule.

The $25 million bond would not raise property taxes because it will replace existing debt from a $24 million bond set to expire in 2021, Celano said.

The district decided to borrow that money in 2000 to add classrooms at its three elementary schools, the last time a package of projects of this magnitude was undertaken, Celano said.

Taxes would decrease “minimally” if the district did not take on new debt, Celano said, but “people recognize the fact that the work needs to be done, and therefore it’s not a concern.”

Other North Shore school districts have approved large packages of building projects in recent years.

The Sewanhaka school district is finishing the third phase of an $86.6 million initiative across its five high schools. 

The Roslyn school district finished the first phase of a $24.5 million package this summer. 

Several pieces of a $7 million package were completed at Mineola schools over the summer.

Celano said he does not expect any more major projects in the next several years, but there will be work to be done at the district’s aging buildings.

“It’s a constant thing,” he said. “It’s like when you own a home there are always new projects to be done.”

Polls will be open for the bond referendum from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 6 in the gymnasium of the Herricks Community Center at 999 Herricks Road in New Hyde Park.

By Noah Manskar

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