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From the desk of Dr. Charles Murphy

Earlier this year, Nassau BOCES decided to close their special education pre-school program at the Geneva N. Gallow Elementary School on Farmedge Road.  Although this school building has been closed to Island Trees students for over twenty years, the district has been fortunate to lease out this building to BOCES for additional revenue.  In fact, the $346,000 BOCES lease has been an important revenue stream for the programs and services in the Island Trees School District. 

Not only has our school community benefited from the rental income, but we have also profited from our BOCES lease in other ways. In addition to paying the rental expenses, Nassau BOCES was also responsible for the building upkeep, including utilities and maintenance. The associated cost for the building’s physical plant was over $166,000 for the 2011-12 school year. With the loss of our tenant, the maintenance burden is now placed upon the school district. Overall, the sum loss of the BOCES lease totals more than $500,000 for the school district.

Naturally, we have been searching high and low for a new tenant for the Gallow School. We have reached out to many private schools and non-profit organizations in Nassau County. Unfortunately, however, we have not been able to find a new occupant for the building. Admittedly, there are very few organizations like Nassau BOCES – ones with the finances to afford a $30,000 a month lease. In truth, Nassau BOCES is one of the few organizations that could utilize an elementary school facility without spending an inordinate amount of money renovating a school building to fit their needs. To date, we have only had one private school show interest, and their offer would not even begin to cover monthly fuel expenses. 

Without a tenant, Gallow School will become a tremendous burden for the school district and community. Unfortunately, a vacant building becomes the target of vandals.  Clearly, we need a building occupied with people to help with this potential issue.   Equally important, an unoccupied facility will begin to drain needed resources from our schools and student programs. Although we will plan to minimize the utility use, these expenses still total in the tens of thousands of dollars. In truth, we need to find the best use of this property – for the greater good of the community. 

Recently, the Seaford School District was saddled with a similar dilemma when BOCES vacated a building lease in their district. Likewise, the elementary school facility became a very difficult building to manage, as the district spent tens of thousands of dollars in annual maintenance and upkeep. Given this scenario, Seaford Schools chose to sell the property to save taxpayers from this financial liability. Incredibly, Seaford created a new $500,000 tax base, as well as materialized a $5+ million district windfall with the property transaction. 

The Island Trees School District will continue to look carefully at all options to safeguard our community’s schools and resources. We hope to have dialogue with the school residents to do what is in the best interest of our school community, both now and in the long-term. 

If you have any questions, please contact me.