2016-10-27 / Front Page

Vote of sale Bower School in Lindenhurst goes down in defeat

By Michael Scro

A referendum for the sale of the E.W. Bower Elementary School in Lindenhurst was defeated by voters October 18, 1004 to 606 Oct. 18, a 62-percent margin of opposition.

The school building and property would have been sold to the Engel Burman Group for $5.5 million, which would have developed senior citizen condos. 

The school board voted to sell the building and property late last year, and the public referendum was the deciding factor on whether the sale would go through.

"The district will continue to keep the community informed of the process moving forward," Superintendent of Lindenhurst Schools Daniel Giordano said.  "We thank members of the Lindenhurst community who voted and made their voices heard."

The process leading up to the vote began in 2011 with the school's closing, and drew both strong support and opposition among the community and school board itself. Trustees Ed Murphy and Linda Aniello opposed the sale.

Supporters of the proposal pointed to the maintenance of the building, which cots taxpayers approximately $100,000 a year. In addition, they noted that the building is in need of major repairs and the property is not generating any taxable income.

Homeowners at the Lindenhurst senior housing complex would have been required to pay village, school and town taxes, and representatives for the developers estimated those at $500,000 a year—of which 70 percent would have gone to the school district.

Those opposed raised concern over the estimated price of the proposed condo units, which were about $400,000 each and objected on the grounds that the district would loose a school building, which could pose a problem in the future if student enrollment increases.

One day prior to the vote, residents reported receiving a "robo-call" from the Civil Service Employees Association urging residents to vote "no" due to the district loosing hundreds of thousands in state building aid. Those efforts were not generated by the school district, nor the school board, but by a separate organization, said school officials.

 "The referendum results are in and we will all have to live with the financial consequences of this decision," three civic association leaders from Daniel Street, Heer Park/Meridale and Lighthouse Point collectively said in a statement. "Ultimately, students are likely to suffer if program cuts need to be made in order to stay within the limitations of annual tax caps. Meanwhile, that building will continue to bleed maintenance costs, rather than provide the significant tax revenues to the district that the sale would have created."

 The building is leased to a children’s theater group, South Shore Theatre Experience, which opposed the sale. The artistic director of that program, Deborah Plezia challenged the district’s claim that the building was in disrepair in a posting on Facebook. “We offer high school scholarships, and donate and hold fundraisers for various Lindenhurst schools—the building is not in a terrible disrepair, and we are all about the kids," she wrote.

 Moving forward, the district's school board can choose to keep the building and revisit an appropriate use for it; bring the same referendum before the community for voter approval a second time, or begin the process over again, which is soliciting buyers for the property and bringing offers to the board. The sale of the E.W. Bower Elementary School in Lindenhurst is off—for now—as a result of a public vote rejecting it.The sale of the E.W. Bower Elementary School in Lindenhurst is off—for now—as a result of a public vote rejecting it.

 The next regular Lindenhurst School board meeting is Nov. 16, at Harding Avenue School. 

Read more on this story in the Beacon's upcoming print edition.

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