Residents Have Sinking Feeling About Floating a $5M Bond
At a special meeting of the board of education of the Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District held at Floral Park-Bellerose School on Oct. 21, board members outlined a bond referendum aimed at building repairs and improvements for both schools in the district. The vote for this referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 16, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., at Floral Park-Bellerose School and John Lewis Childs School.
“We are proposing a $5 million bond over a 20-year period,” said Board of Education President David T. Fowler. “This has come about, quite frankly, because the time, in the board’s view, is right. … By law, we have a five-year capital plan that we update annually. … With the ending of the financing for the additions on [Floral Park-Bellerose School] and the John Lewis Childs School and the ending of our technology bond, we do have monies that we’ve utilized in past years to pay bond debt. The board is proposing using that same amount of money that had been used for bond debt … to fund these projects,” Fowler said.
After consulting with district building and grounds officials and representatives from James M. Campell Architects PC, “we have come up with … ‘envelope items’—things to keep the integrity of these buildings intact.” For Floral Park-Bellerose School, these projects and their proposed price tags include two boiler replacements, $752,000; roof replacements, $1,012,000; masonry restoration, $657,000; electrical panels, $402,000; drainage projects, $155,000; and clock tower restoration, $155,000. For John Lewis Childs School, projects and proposed costs include boiler replacement, $313,000; roof replacements, $1,198,000; masonry restoration, $107,000; and electrical panels, $249,000.
Much emphasis was put on the boilers in both school buildings. “It is very difficult to heat [the Floral Park-Bellerose building],” Fowler said. “If the boiler were to have an issue in this building during the school year, it would necessitate, quite frankly, closing the building. It’s a health and safety issue.”
One of the two boilers in the John Lewis Childs building, which was built in 1921, was replaced in 1995 with a dual oil/gas boiler, as opposed to an oil-only unit. The board is looking to replace the second boiler in that building, which is 70 years old, and two 40-year-old boilers in the Floral Park-Bellerose building, which was built in 1929.
“Currently if the  boiler fails [in John Lewis Childs], the building would have to operate on the 1930s boiler, and it’s very suspect. We really don’t think it would hold up under continued use,” said James Campbell of James M. Campbell Architects PC. One boiler can handle the whole building and the other is a standby, except for extreme cold days when both are needed.
“The efficiency of the boilers [in Floral Park-Bellerose] would be dramatically improved with replacements,” said Campbell. The existing boilers in FPBS “provide steam to a one-zone system. In essence, what we’re saying is that [in] this building when you heat one area, you’re in effect heating the entire building. What this will allow us to do is create zones.”
By replacing the three boilers in question with dual fuel burners, “the district [will have] the opportunity to cost effectively pick out which fuel to contract for, for a particular year,” Campbell added.
When questioned whether Campbell’s firm has considered solar alternatives, Campbell clarified that solar solutions “would be more for lighting and electric.” He added that the district has contacted the New York Power Authority (NYPA) regarding energy-related contract work.
The biggest-ticket item in the proposed bond issue is roof replacements at both schools. Currently, the district has to have contractors come in on an emergency basis to fix leaks in the roof. “All of the existing roofing systems are at the end of their warranties, and the buildings are experiencing sections of roofing which have started to fail,” Campbell said. In addition, by replacing the roofing, an additional layer of insulation would be added, which boosts energy conservation measures.
Electrical upgrades are also part of the bond referendum. The “electrical panel is totally filled,” Campbell said. The use of technology in both schools has sapped the current electrical capacity in both buildings.
Finally, the proposed bond will take in the FPBS clock tower restoration. The clock tower has experienced leaks and the clock mechanisms are obsolete, according to the board. Campbell’s firm performed the Sewanhaka High School clock tower restoration, which cost $625,000 for the clock tower itself, and $1.1 million for the entire project, which included masonry work.
Michael Fabiano, district business administrator, outlined three ways in which capital projects can be paid for: allocation from the operating budget through a transfer to capital projects, appropriation from a district’s capital reserve fund, and the issuance of long-term (serial) bonds. Each of those methods requires voter approval. Fabiano referenced a historic view of the 10-year treasury index, which now hovers between 2 percent and 3 percent, and said, “This is an indication that this is a good time to borrow money.”
If the referendum is passed on Nov. 16 and the New York State Education Department issues a Building Permit and Bond Certificate, the proposed projects could yield the following savings in the long run, Fabiano said: fuel cost savings associated with the dual fuel energy-efficient boilers could exceed $40,000 per year and unspecified savings from the elimination of emergency repair work and emergency overtime.
Some audience members vehemently opposed floating a $5 million bond “to patchwork these buildings.” One question that arose was whether “anybody proposed knocking down both schools and building one school.”
Others in the audience agreed that the proposed work is necessary but questioned floating a bond to finance the projects. “What research has been done for other possibilities [to avoid floating a bond]?”
“We have looked at a different mix of financing, and NYPA is one of the firms that we initially considered and that we’re continuing to do work with,” Fabiano said. “NYPA’s mandate is to generate enough savings so that the lease payments on the equipment would approximate the energy savings, and they cannot enter into projects where the payback is not 18 years or less.
“ Some of the other private firms out there [such as Honeywell] also do very good work and might be able to increase the scope of some of the projects that we’d be doing, for example, the boilers. But along with that, we would have to enter into long-term service agreements. … At this particular point, it has been determined that the best way to finance these projects that have been put on the table is to issue a serial bond. We will continue to explore additional energy-savings projects through NYPA … projects that are relating to lighting, projects that are relating to motion sensors.”
A similar board of education meeting will be held at John Lewis Childs School on Nov. 8, at 8 p.m.