By Kathryn G. Menu
Residents will have the final say Tuesday on whether or not the Sag Harbor School District should purchase the former Stella Maris Regional School building on Division Street for $10.23 million.
The referendum would fund the $3.3 million purchase of the property, $6.3 million to upgrade the facility to meet state education standards, and an additional $595,678 to bring programming into the space.
While the referendum does not limit the use of the property, according to Superintendent Katy Graves, if it is approved by voters, the district will move forward with plans to operate its pre-kindergarten program in the space, and will contract with an outside agency to provide full-day daycare services as well.
If the bond is approved, the district will also use the building for early intervention special education services, and will move some administrative offices from the middle school wing of Pierson Middle-High School into the former Stella Maris School space. That shift would allow the district to provide a dedicated middle school wing at Pierson, as well as a green science center focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming.
The former Catholic school also has a gymnasium and theater space, as well as a full kitchen facility that would be used to expand the
current food service program at Pierson, according to business administrator Jennifer Buscemi.
According to Ms. Buscemi, the operating expenses if the facility opens with this use is $177,114 annually. That would cover the cost of a full-time nurse, security and custodial services. All other services proposed for the property already exist within the school district, or — as in the case of day care programming — will be contracted out to a private vendor.
The operating costs, according to the district business office will cost about $26 in annual taxes for the owner of a house valued at $1 million.
If voters approve the purchase, the district would fund the purchase for three years with short-term notes before issuing a 20-year bond to cover the remaining expenses. In total, over the course of 23 years, it would cost taxpayers an anticipated $13.39 million when interest is factored into the equation.
For houses with an estimated value of $1 million, the tax impact associated with the purchase would be between $3.88 and $33.11 for the first three years. From 2020 to 2040, Ms. Buscemi has said there would be no additional tax impact because the district will have paid off other bonds. If the purchase did not go through, taxpayers would see an estimated $161 decrease annually based on those bonds being paid off.
None of the financing figures account for additional revenues for the day care contract, or revenues created by leasing the space for adult education classes in the evening. Superintendent Graves has said Dowling College has already expressed interest in holding evening classes in the space.