For the 2011-2012 school budget vote, synthetic turf the topic that was on everyone's minds and lips.
Whether residents wanted synthetic turf or not, the buzzword grew during budget discussions for the vote, which will take place on May 17.
Unable to pay for synthetic turf out of the capital projects fund, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District would have to put up a bond referendum in order to install three turf fields for the district. This, in turn, would raise taxes for the community, something that some members of the board did not feel fiscally responsible doing.
“There are people in our community who can not afford to pay one penny more in taxes,” said Nina Lanci, president of the board.
The board explained that it would cost between $3.8 million and $4.5 million to install the turf, as well as purchase grooming products. In addition, it was explained to those in attendance that there would be additional costs that deal with the turf. One would be the maintenance, since the turf would need to be re-done every eight to 10 years at a price of $500,000 per field, and that there would be a cost of about $130,000 per field to remove the old turf.
It is estimated that the turf would cost the taxpayers between $1.28 and $2.28 per hundred dollar assessment of a home in order to get the turf, but costs will continue to be added to the taxes as replacement and grooming costs get added in.
Although board members Dr. Matthew Kuschner and Jonathan Butler did attempt to make a movement to let the community vote for the turf, a petition that was circulated was not worded correctly and was not accepted by the board as usable, pushing the turf issue to the back-burner for yet another year.
"It's not that we took a stance for or against the turf, but the community has a voice and we thought that the community should let their voices be heard," Kuschner said.
John Pinto, a resident of North Merrick and a former board member, was one of the biggest champions of turf during the budget formation, explaining that turf has been on the agenda for a few previous years, but an installation has not come to fruition.
"For six years we have watched other school districts find a way install the [turf] fields. And we have had our opportunity's to get it done in 2007 with an overfunded reserve $3.3 million, but the board chose not to do it. For kids that play tennis or run track, we spent $2.8 million dollars on those surfaces and are spending thousands each year to redo the rubber," Pinto explained.
Although Pinto does understand that turf fields would mean more money for taxpayers, he cites several positives for the community including the fact that gym classes would be able to be held outside on nice days; community spirit driven by Friday night games under the lights and no more fighting for time on the field by youth organizations.
"The current fields are in very poor condition due to overuse. We can't grow grass during the spring and fall seasons with the teams on them all week. I can can come to you with one reason why we should do this: The student athletes and students of Bellmore-Merrick who would use these field every day," Pinto said.
(Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part series. Next week Patch will discuss synthetic turf installation with other school districts.)