The school buildings and athletic facilities in the Malverne School District will soon be getting major overhauls. The majority of residents living in District 12 who came out to the polls on Nov. 16 voted in favor of both propositions that were on the ballot in the bond referendum.
Proposition 1, which is projected to cost the $9.9 million, passed 726-493 votes. This money will be used to make dramatic renovations and improvements to the district's two elementary schools, Downing and Davision. Proposition 2, which adds another $4.2 million to the bond, passed 635-481 votes. Proposition 2 is focused on giving the athletic fields, courts and locker rooms a makeover and installing a turf field at the high school. This proposal could not have been implemented if Proposition 1 had not passed. In total, the district expects the bond to cost $14.1 million, but New York State will reimburse approximately 40 percent, or $5.6 million, through state Building Aid. This will be applied to the bond's interest
for a more detailed list of the projects the bond will address.
"I'm incredible pleased with the support of the community," said Dr. Patrick Coonan, president of the Malverne Board of Education, shortly after the final results were announced Tuesday night."We have not had the community's support for a major issue like this in 30 years."
Coonan also commended the Board of Education, adding, "'This is a difficult community to bring together."
Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund was also elated upon hearing the results.
"I'm overwhelming pleased," he said.
Both Coonan and Hunderfund attributed the success of the bond to a few key factors-hard work, trust and the kids themselves.
From the initial committee meetings to draft the proposals to the final efforts to get out the word about the vote, Hunderfund explained that many people devoted countless hours to see this bond come to fruition.
"It started with a dream three years ago and then we moved forward to find the right combination of cost versus value and need," he said. "Our board of education then had the courage and insight to move forward in what looked like a climate that couldn't be overcome."
That's where the trust came in, he said. "The community showed that they trusted the Board of Education that this was a real need."
"And that we've been doing the right thing for the past few years," Coonan added.
Then, the final, and most important, motivating factor was the students in the district.
'This is all for the kids," Hunderfund said. "There was a real effort made by the community to ask 'What do we really need for the kids?''
Those that toured Davison and Downing or who had witnessed the conditions of the buildings on their own were "the real believers," he added.
It also didn't hurt that many parents in the district had other reasons to make the trip to Howard T. Herber Middle School, where the vote was being held on Tuesday. Parent-teacher conferences were taking place at the school during the day, along with a Fall Festival concert later that night.
"Parent-teacher conferences were on the district calendar before the date [of the bond vote] was set," Hunderfund said. The Fall Festival was less of a coincidence. This is the first year the district held this special concert, which featured performances by students from all four of the district's schools.
The concert was scheduled on the same night as the bond vote for "the convenience of parents," said Hunderfund, who plans to make the festival an annual tradition now.
"This will be an event every year, but we certainly won't have a bond vote every year," he added.
The $14.1 million bond is expected to cost the average homeowner $14.56 per month, but the district plans to incorporate this into its annual budget starting with the next fiscal year, so residents won't be hit with a second bill.
Hunderfund said the bond will be absorbed into the rest of the district's expenses, explaining, "It will be less than two percent of the 100 percent we propose for next year's budget."
New York State is not obligated to guarantee the district the 39.7 percent reimbursement aid, but the district will still have to work on getting the best interest rate possible for the bond.
Moving forward, the district hopes to have all the plans through the State Education Department so they can start putting out bids in the spring and begin construction this summer.
"Our facilities are overdue for repairs," Coonan said. "And now our athletic facilities will soon be able to host major events and sporting competitions."
Many residents who came out to vote on Nov. 12 with their young children in tow were, to no surprise, enthusiastically supportive of the bond.
Even some residents who do not have children in the public schools were proponents of the two propositions, including Phyllis Nielsen, a resident of the district who has two students enrolled at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Malverne.
Nielsen toured the schools on Nov. 13 and was "saddened by the conditions at Davison Avenue School."
"As a community, it's our obligation to enhance and improve the conditions of our schools," she said.
Kevin Harvey, another District 12 resident, with no students in the schools was convinced that Davison and Downing schools were in desperate need of renovations.
"They're turning some things into classrooms that were meant to be used for storage," he said, referring to both the primary and intermediate schools.
Many others were also either silently or vehemently opposed to both propositions.
Those who said they voted against the bond said that while they understand that the conditions at the schools were sub-par, they didn't think taxpayers should be burdened even more with paying for the improvements.
One woman suggested fundraising as an alternative.
"I feel bad for the kids," she said. "But I can't afford for my taxes to go up anymore. If they want a new basketball court they should fundraise!"
Many others also took the position that in these tough economic times, the district should be focusing on tightening its budget instead of spending money on building projects.
As one voter put it:"In these economic times, you just can't have gorgeous schools."
In the end, the majority disagreed.