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A Southold school bond could be up for a vote this December

09/23/2015 12:59 PM |

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Southold School District residents may be asked to vote on a capital improvement bond in early December, as the district looks to continue improving facilities once an existing bond is paid off.

A referendum on the proposed bond, which would first need Board of Education approval, would seek to enhance several aspects of the school’s infrastructure, including a library, classroom configuration, security systems and athletic fields, according to Southold Superintendent David Gamberg.

“We always want to be looking forward into the future and realize that in order to protect the investment of the taxpayers and to be forward thinking of our educational facilities and programs for our students, what kinds of things will we be looking forward to?” Mr. Gamberg said last week.

At last Wednesday’s school board meeting, the superintendent announced that a 20-year bond passed in the late 1990s to finance construction of the district elementary school is scheduled to expire in 2018. Mr. Gamberg said the next day in an interview that cost of construction associated with the proposed new bond would be “significantly below” the cost of the previous bond.

The earlier bond had been approved for $14.77 million, but ended up costing taxpayers more because funds were improperly taken from the district’s general fund at the time.

Exactly what improvements the district will be seeking is uncertain. Several “meat and potatoes” projects, such as improving roofs and door locks, are necessary to keep them up to par, the superintendent said.

According to Mr. Gamberg, the district’s architects have been working on cost estimates based on recommendations from the Board of Education’s construction committee.

Architects with Patchogue-based BBS Architects are expected to attend the school board’s next work session on Oct. 7 and the superintendent said the district may hold an additional special meeting in order to “provide the public with greater depth and detail.”

At last week’s BOE meeting, Mr. Gamberg shared an abbreviated version of a presentation he originally made to parents Sept. 3, the first conference day of the year. That six-minute video, which is available on the school’s website, poses the question: “What’s worth fighting for in your school?”

After the presentation, Board of Education president Paulette Ofrias said, “I think it’s fair to say that over the years, needs and wants change. Some of the things the committee looked at four or five years ago changed as a result of things that happened within this country.”

The district recently completed a $1.5 million reconfiguration of the high school, moving the principal’s office from the side of the building to near its main entrance. Visitors were left wandering the halls, Ms. Ofrias said earlier this year, before the work was done. That construction work put other projects — such as those which the district is now hoping to do — on the back burner in the meantime.

While the improvements completed earlier this month were paid for entirely with voter-approved reserves, Mr. Gamberg said more reserves could be used for the proposed project.

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