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Story - Education

Dec 9, 2009 3:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor voters approve $61 million school building project

Dec 9, 2009 3:05 PM

Voters in the Eastport South Manor School District on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $61 million construction project that calls for major improvements to the district’s three elementary schools, including a new kindergarten-through-second grade school building on the Eastport Elementary School campus.

According to results released by district officials Tuesday night, 527 people voted in favor of the project, while 252 voters opposed it. There are 14,000 residents in the district who are eligible to vote, according to Sharon Murray, the district clerk.

“Right now, our architects will be going to Albany and moving as quickly as possible to get approval for the work,” said Eastport South Manor Superintendent of Schools Mark Nocero. “And once we get those approvals, which could take up to six months ... then we can start breaking ground.”

The project calls for additional classrooms, storage space, and various renovations to cafeterias and gymnasiums at the Dayton Avenue, South Street and Eastport elementary schools.

More than half of the $60 million construction plan, which is dubbed “Phase III,” the final phase in a series of capital improvements to the district, calls for the creation of a $32 million two-story kindergarten-through-second grade school building on Eastport Elementary School campus that will replace six aging portable classroom buildings. The plan calls for an additional 21 classrooms, including two special education rooms. The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified.

Renovations at the Eastport Elementary School campus also include a new bus loop area, modifications to the school’s gymnasium, and the construction of baseball, soccer and softball fields and three tennis courts. A new playground will also be constructed.

At South Street Elementary School, construction will total about $12 million and includes the building of a new wing with six kindergarten classrooms, a special education classroom and much needed storage space. The school’s gymnasium will be expanded to create a stage, and a new library media center, which will feature new technology, will also be created. A new front entrance and main office will be constructed as well.

Construction at the Dayton Avenue Elementary will amount to about $15 million. That covers the construction of a new wing with 10 classrooms, a special education classroom and storage space. The northwest gymnasium will be renovated into a new cafeteria that will be able to accommodate all grade levels at one time—something the current cafeteria cannot. The old cafeteria will be converted into a library media center. The campus will also house the district’s newly consolidated administration offices.

The majority of the cost of the project will be funded by New York State building aid, according to district officials. Under the terms of an agreement reached when the Eastport and South Manor school districts merged in 2003, the district is entitled to increased state aid.

About 90 percent of the project’s cost, or $55 million, will be paid through state building aid, leaving about $6 million to be covered by district taxpayers over the course of approximately 18 years, according to school officials. The local share will amount to approximately $425,000 per year.

The average homeowner in the Brookhaven Town portion of the district with a home assessed at $3,500 will pay an additional $72 per year to fund the project, while the average homeowner in Southampton Town with a house assessed at $400,000 will pay an additional $60 per year in school property taxes.

District officials noted that the local cost of the project would be offset by savings generated from a $13 million energy performance contract that would construct energy efficient systems and upgrades throughout all of the district’s schools. The energy performance project calls for a cogeneration power plant to be built at the high school in Manorville, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements that will be made throughout the district. Additionally, the schools will be weatherized and solar panels will be installed on some school roofs. The district expects to save about $737,000 per year in energy costs after the upgrades are made.

Many voters at the polls on Tuesday seemed in support of the project. Nicolette Krumholz, a Mastic resident and former president of the South Manor Parent Teacher Association, said the vote is particularly important because it directly affects schoolchildren. She also said that district officials, specifically Mr. Nocero and Assistant Superintendent for Business Richard Snyder, extensively promoted the project.

“I feel that they provided a more than adequate amount of information to make an informed vote more than ever before,” Ms. Krumholz said.

Other residents, including Marge and Jim Modica of Manorville, took issue with the timing of the project, noting the national economic recession.

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4% of the voting population (I assume the school district covers all of Manorville, I'm not really sure) just added $6 million in expenses to the school tax bill. $72 a year may not sound like much but it just piles up as next year there will surely be another project to be funded. Make these projects self funded by finding an appropriate amount of savings in current spending. Also move these elections to November when turnout is higher.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Dec 9, 09 1:12 PM
I agree with diogenes. I was able to view my upcoming tax bill which has been increased this year by almost 900 dollars. That is insane. I am not sure if the young upcoming families are aware of the implications of every yes vote given as per the schools "sake of the children" campaign. Yes , we all want the best for our children, but there may come a time when their children will not benefit from attending the school because high taxes will force them out of the district. In these hard times ...more
By BridgetLTP (3), Eastport on Dec 10, 09 10:46 AM
The people that voted yes for this project were led down the wrong path. New York State is in terrible economic shape and simply put.....does NOT have the money!! When are the school administrators going to "get it"?? The taxpayers are stretched to the limit financially.....working 2 jobs, trying to save their homes from foreclosure and their concerned about spending an additional $63 million. It doesn't make any sense.......taxpayers please wake up !!!!
By T-BONE (6), manorville on Dec 14, 09 8:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
What am I missing. $55 million of a $61 million project to improve our schools and build a new school is covered in aid from New York State. Unless NYS break their promise (and contract) with the ESM school district. $6 million is responsible from the taxpayers over 20 years. For $72/yr, for a new school plus school improvements I'm sure you'll see a $72/yr increase in your real estate values...

Plus taxes in the ESM are cheaper (tax rate) than any surrounding school district in Brookhaven. ...more
By dcv2002 (1), Manorville on Dec 18, 09 11:31 AM