The Springs School District will ask voters to release $2 million from a capital reserve fund at its budget vote on May 19, which would allow the district to improve on-site parking, curbing and drainage—projects that have been discussed for several years.
At its Monday night meeting, the School Board voted to advance the proposition, but some members of the community expressed concern that specific plans for the improvements have not yet been released. The board countered that specifics could not be offered, because the money must be released from the capital fund first.
But Springs resident Carole Campolo maintained that taxpayers should know exactly what the project entails before they vote on the proposition and give their consent. “Now you owe it to the voters to do a voter guide, showing exactly what you’re using the $2 million for, and expenditures need to be broken down in plain language,” she said.
“You have not done your job explaining to people why you’re ready to adopt [the resolution for the proposition], expending [money] from the capital reserve that was put aside by voters,” agreed Springs resident David Buda. “No one in this room knew what plan you’re hoping voters will fund.”
The $2 million that would fund the project would come out of the capital reserve—money set aside specifically for capital projects—which means that additional taxpayer money will not be collected.
School Board President Liz Mendelman said the plan, which is the same plan that was presented twice in 2014 by architectural firm Burton, Behrendt and Smith of Patchogue, would “alleviate the pressures the school puts on the community” in terms of traffic and parking issues as well as safety for students. Although it is a separate project from the school expansion BBS has drafted for the coming years, it falls in line with where the campus design could go if the district moves forward with those plans.
The $2 million project would move the school’s softball and baseball fields next to the school’s outdoor recreational space and would add more parking in their place. The project would remove the dropoff and pick up point from School Street and redirect it toward Old Stone Highway. Buses would still enter and exit the premises on School Street.
The School Board declared the project would be a Type II action under SEQRA, meaning that it would not have a significant adverse impact on the environment and not require further review.
Parent Chris Tucci warned the School Board that the timing of the project could be off if the district is strapped for cash in the near future, given the increasing cost of education and in enrollment, saying there could be a “black hole of events.”
The school administration did close its approximate $300,000 budget gap for the 2015-16 school year and will stay under the 2 percent tax levy cap next year. Superintendent John Finello said that the district will use money from its unassigned fund balance, its employee retirement system reserve to meet its goal and it has cut more than $40,000 in items throughout the budget.
The tax rate is expected to be $984.17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is a 2.47-percent increase from this year’s rate, $960.53 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. A taxpayer with a home valued at $800,000 could expect to pay $190 more next year.