Herricks seeks input on $25M capital plan

The Island Now

Herricks School District administrators want residents to help them decide what should be on a $25 million list of construction projects and how to fund them.

Administrators will incorporate their feedback from three Herricks school board meetings in September into a possible December bond referendum, Superintendent Fino Celano said.

“We want to be totally transparent about it, have plenty of opportunity for the community to provide input about it,” Celano said.

The state-mandated five-year building condition survey the district completed last year created a long list of projects that administrators have said is worth about $70 million.

A district committee narrowed that down to a $25 million list of high-priority projects that administrators want parents to help them refine, Celano said. It includes new windows, doors and ventilation systems at the district’s five schools, the Herricks Community Center and the Shelter Rock Academy, as well as overhauls to the cafeteria and football stadium at Herricks High School.

Herricks may not have to borrow all that money, Celano said — the district has $1.7 million in a capital reserve fund and will determine whether to add more in August. A bond on which residents would vote in December would cover the difference, he said.

“As we go through the process of determining or fine-tuning the list and then determining what’s going to be paid for out of this capital reserve and what would be funded through a bond, we would really like to have the community’s input,” Celano said.

The district wants to get moving on a bond now because it could be at least two years before any of the work gets done, largely due to a project review backlog in the state Education Department, Celano said.

If approved, the bond should not cause property taxes to increase because the district will start borrowing new money as it finishes paying off $23.1 million in existing debt, said Lisa Rutkoske, Herricks’ assistant superintendent for business.

Work would likely start by the summer of 2018, so there would be some overlap in the borrowing, Rutkoske said. In that case, the district would cut other capital expenses to keep the new debt tax-neutral, she said.

“We would be looking to phase it in over the next four to five years so that by the time we get to the end of the projects, the old debt is falling off,” Rutkoske said.

Herricks budgeted for $400,900 in bond payments this year, down from $419,338 last year. The budget also includes a $200,000 boost to the district’s capital projects fund.

Herricks residents can attend talks about the capital plan at school board meetings Sept. 1 and 15 at Herricks Community Center, and at a special informational meeting Sept. 27 at Herricks High School. All meetings start at 7:30 p.m.

By Noah Manskar

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