Budget

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Most people would be ecstatic to have millions of dollars put aside for a rainy day, but for school districts it’s not such a benefit, at least according to state law.

The New York State comptroller, who serves as a financial watchdog on public institutions, issued a report June 1 that said the Mount Sinai School District had amassed millions of dollars in its fund budget higher
than the legal max of 4 percent of the districts overall budget. Mount Sinai has said it intends to comply with the suggestions of the report, but some trustees said the restrictions on rainy-day funds only hamper the
district’s ability to handle its finances.

“We knew we couldn’t wait — those projects needed to be done now. I think that according to the [budget] vote the residents agreed with us.”

— Gordon Brosdal

“If you spent all the money you got every year, and then had nothing left, how fiscally responsible is that?” incoming board trustee Steve Koepper said.

The report said officials overestimated expenditures by more than $7.5 million and had underestimated revenues by $1.7 million from the 2014-15 through the 2016-17 school years. In the three years examined in the report, the district operated at a surplus and did not use any of its appropriated fund balance. This led to Mount Sinai’s unrestricted fund balance to be equal to 19.8 percent of the overall 2016-17 budget, way above the 4 percent limit.

The unassigned fund balance is developed from a school district having leftover, unspent funds by the end of each school year, and these funds accumulate. There are three levels to a districts total fund balance, including the restricted fund balance, which can only be spent for specific purposes like retirements; the appropriated balance, which is what the district sets up every year that can be spent from the overall funds; and the unassigned fund balance, or the unused portion. As of the 2016-17 school year, the district had $1.61 million appropriated and $9.9 million unassigned, according to the report.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said at the June 12 board of education meeting that talks with auditors have been congenial, and that they already have plans in motion to resolve the issue by using the funds in the already established capital project.

In the district’s 2018-19 adopted budget Mount Sinai residents voted 787-176 in favor of using $5 million of the unassigned fund balance to make repairs to the high school roof, upgrade the turf field and replace the campus’ perimeter fences, as well as other school security improvements. 

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal speaks to community members about the state comptroller’s audit findings during a June 12 board of education meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We hope that they will listen to our plan to spend down the fund balance, rather than just say, ‘No, your fund balance is too high,’” Brosdal said.

Brian Butry, a spokesperson for the comptroller’s office, said Mount Sinai is not the only district in the state that has been caught with a surplus of unassigned fund balance.

“We have districts in the state showing that they are using fund balance, but that money is not being spent,” Butry said. “You have districts planning for one thing that doesn’t materialize, or you have districts overestimating their expenditures and then just continually have this surplus that rolls over into the next year.”

According to Butry, the penalty for not complying with the comptroller’s report could be a withholding of state funds up to the amount that district’s fund balance is over the 4 percent limit.

Koepper works as the superintendent of buildings and grounds at Sayville school district, and he said that so many districts do not operate within the limit because it does not make financial sense to do so.

“To be imposed upon by the state ties our hands, because if emergencies occur what do you do?” Koepper said. “Especially because you’re not allowed to overspend your budget.”

“To be imposed upon by the state ties our hands, because if emergencies occur what do you do? Especially because you’re not allowed to overspend your budget.”

— Steve Koepper

Butry said the law is in place to keep school districts from having too much money on hand that’s not being put toward productive use. He added the comptroller’s office often recommends putting the surplus into a one-time expenditure or to use it in subsequent school years for reducing the tax levy.

Brosdal said the district had already planned to use the unrestricted fund balance for the capital projects months before the district received any news on the comptroller’s findings.

“We knew we couldn’t wait — those projects needed to be done now,” Brosdal said. “I think that according to the [budget] vote the residents agreed with us.”

In the letter to the state comptroller the district also said it would be establishing a capital reserve of $750,000 in an effort to reduce the unassigned fund balance. The district letter said there’s five-year-plan
effects that should reduce the overage by more than half, below the 4 percent limit, within two years. This will include tightening the amounts the district uses in fund balance appropriations for future school years.

Butry said that the comptroller’s office was largely satisfied with the district’s response so far.

“To their credit,” he said, “they did say they were putting this money to use.”

Miller Place residents listen to the board of education discuss the proposal of hiring armed guards and including it in the 2018-19 budget. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place residents passed this year’s $72,685,864 school budget with 616 yes votes and 209 no. The second proposition, the library budget, passed 722-101.

“The budget increase at 2.1 percent maintains all current academic programs, clubs and athletics, as well as maintaining our capital project planning,” Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said in the weeks before the budget vote.

The budget saw a 2.8 percent increase to the tax levy. The increase stayed within the tax levy cap, so the budget only required a simple majority to pass.

The budget includes a $530,000 transfer to capital funds for initiatives such as new high school courses for honor chemistry, virtual enterprise — a course on learning about global business and enterprise — and Engineering Design using VEX Robotics, which includes design kits used to design automated devices and robots.

Incumbent trustee Keith Frank ran unopposed for his second three-year term and received 688 votes.

Frank ran on a platform of trying to offer programs for all students with different interests, especially including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes.

“We’re trying to balance the needs and the wishes of everyone, whether it’s arts, athletics or music — whatever the kids want to do,” Frank said before the election. “Kids should be able to go out and properly tackle the world.”

Board president Johanna Testa said she was happy to see Frank back for another term.

“We’re looking forward to the next couple of years with him here,” she said. “[Keith Frank] is an attorney and he’s had experience dealing with contract negotiations and things of that nature. That’s been a benefit to us.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo

Shoreham-Wading River voters have overwhelmingly approved the district’s $74,776,072 budget with 790 voting in favor and 233 against.

Turnout compared to last year’s vote took a significant downturn, as more than 2,000 taxpayers came out to vote last May.

“The district is grateful to the community for their overwhelming support of the proposed budget,” Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Poole said. “With the voter’s approval, this budget will bring a number of educational enhancements and new programs that will continue to prepare our students to achieve great outcomes in today’s ever evolving world. I look forward to our district’s continued progress and welcome our newly elected Board member Mr. Smith and congratulate Mr. Rose on his re-election to the board.”

Rose won back his seat with 772 votes.

“I’m most proud of the bond that was passed several years ago and improvements that have been taking place at all of our buildings,” said Rose, who will be serving his third term. “I’m very fortunate and I’m looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the board and the superintendent to continue to make Shoreham-Wading River a great district.”

James Smith ran unopposed and nabbed 767 votes. He will be taking the place of first-year trustee Michael Yannucci, who did not seek re-election.

“I appreciate Mike’s service and the amount of time he has given to the community and the district,” Rose said. “I respect his decision to not run again.”

Yannucci decided to not run again so he could spend more time with his children.

“Despite the fact that we have an uncontested board election this year, residents should continue to stay engaged and attend board meetings,” Yannucci said. His advice to the rest of the board upon leaving was they should look to engage and communicate with district residents. “Even if they don’t have kids in school, their taxes are still affected by our decisions.”

Smith, who ran last year unsuccessfully, has been a Shoreham resident for the past six years and in that time has not hesitated to get involved in the community. The father of four children in the district, he joined the PTA and became its vice president. He has worked with kids as a coach through Sound Beach Soccer Club and Father Joe’s Soccer. Smith said he wants to push for greater psychological and emotional resources for students.

“I’m excited and optimistic — really looking forward to utilizing my professional and personal experience to strengthen our district,” he said. “My goal is to absorb as much as i can especially in the first year. As a district we have a young board of ed who all are very active within our community. I am looking forward to being a part of that for as long as our community stakeholders allow me. This is a way that I can continue to give back to a district that has done so much for my children.”

Commack Superintendent Donald James. Photo from Brenda Lentsch

Across the Town of Smithtown, voters headed to the polls May 15 to show their overwhelming approval of their school district’s 2018-19 budgets. Many of the districts are planning to use funds to increase their security measures in schools or make critical infrastructure and building repairs.

Yet, threat of hazardous weather and early evening storms made for a light voter turnout, with fewer ballots being cast than in previous years. This disappointed school officials, who rely on their taxpayers’ votes for critical feedback and as a measurement of community involvement.

2018-19 budget 

Commack residents passed the district’s $193,222,797 2018-19 budget by 1,203 votes to 419 votes against. The approved budget contains a $3 million increase to expand college level courses at the high school while also conducting a districtwide security review.


Commack budget results
by the numbers

$193.2M 2018-19 budget: 1,203 Yes votes to 419 No votes

Board of education
Jarrett Behar: 1,302 votes 

The budget will maintain all current programs while expanding upon others. Classes that will be added include the pottery wheel classes for sixth-graders, more college level, project-based courses for high school students and a Movement in the Arts program that will attempt to give elementary students 40 to 60 minutes of physical activity during the school day.

The district’s spending plan also provides funding for replacement vehicles for the security and maintenance departments, updated computers with more antivirus and malware programs and enhancements to Wi-Fi connectivity in the district buildings.

Angela Cicalo, Commack’s PTA council president, expressed her concern about the low turnout of less than 2,000 voters.

“It’s sad that we have about 6,000 students in all of the buildings here in Commack, but only about 2,000 people normally come out and vote,” Cicalo said. “And there will probably be fewer than that this year. Sometimes the voter turnout is low when the incumbent is running unopposed and there aren’t a lot of candidates to choose from.”

Commack board of education

Voters did not have many options when it came to candidates for Commack’s board of education. There was one trustee seat up for vote, and incumbent trustee and current vice president on the board Jarrett Behar ran unopposed receiving 1,302 votes.

“I want to represent our children and our community while looking out for their best interests.”

— Jarrett Behar

Even though Behar was running unopposed, he still made the rounds before going to work: stopping at the high school first — with his two children, Jeffrey, 11, and Mollie, 6, in tow — to shake hands and introduce himself to voters.

“I’m very invested in the district,” he said. “I want to represent our children and our community while looking out for their best interests.”

For his second term, Behar said that he would “love to convince Albany to fix or abandon the Foundation Aid formula and start giving moderate wealth districts like Commack more aid, which would in turn reduce the tax burden on our community members.”

He added that he will continue to advocate “for the curtailment or abolishment of the numerous unfunded mandates that serve to further burden our community.” 

Behar said he would also like to continue the board’s efforts in improving the district’s communication with the community.

“It has definitely gotten better, but we will continue to try to improve,” he said.

Karen Forman contributed reporting. 

Rocky Point board of ed Trustees Joseph Coniglione and Ed Casswell and President Susan Sullivan discuss the vote results May 15. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite a storm that plowed through Long Island at the same time that many residents were to head out to vote May 15, Rocky Point residents passed the school districts $86,128,785 budget with 499 yes votes to 226 no.

“The most important thing for us was to put forward a budget that is fiscally responsible while we continually try to grow options for students at our schools,” Superintendent Michael Ring said.

The largest increases came from teacher benefits and new general education initiatives, like science, technology, engineering and math initiatives, new Advanced Placement courses and special education services.

Ring said he was disappointed with the voter turnout compared to last year, which saw 909 residents come out to vote. Ring partially blamed Tuesday’s storm that came around when the district usually sees most come out to vote.

“Most come out to vote after 5 p.m.,” Ring said. “Thankfully enough came out.”

Two trustee seats were opened on the board. Incumbent Ed Casswell was voted to his second term with 551 votes and newcomer Gregory Amendola was elected to the board with 571 votes. The race was uncontested, with current board Vice President Scott Reh stepping down.

“We have a great board of education — its going to be a loss that Reh is leaving, but Greg Amendola is going to be a great addition to the team,” said Casswell, a 26-year resident who was elected alongside Reh in 2015.

The vice president, who is Mount Sinai’s athletic director, said he felt it was time to step down after nine years on the board.

“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming,” Reh said. “I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it. I wish everyone the best of luck.”

Casswell has been a member of the North Shore Little League for 10 years and is currently the principal of Center Moriches High School.

“I feel it is important to be an active member of a community,” he said. “High levels of altruism and service among citizens help create vibrant communities. This has always been my driving force and calling. I believe in these notions and love serving.”

Amendola, a 13-year resident who is looking to get the community more involved, echoed Casswell’s comments about losing Reh, but said he looks forward to being on the board.

“It’s an exciting time,” Amendola said. “I’m excited to be part of the team and make a difference. As of now I really just want to get in and get my feet wet and help any way I can.”

The board members will assume their trustee positions at the July organizational meeting. There the board will also elect a president and vice president for next year.

Trustee incumbents William Connors and Deanna Bavlnka look forward to three more years on the board. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school budget passed with an overwhelming majority May 15.

Of the 1,948 votes cast, 72 percent were in favor of the $209.8 million budget for the 2018-19 school year with 1,412 yes votes and 536 voting no.

Spending will remain within the 1.97 percent cap on the tax levy increase and include enhancements to the well-being of students, as well as to the elementary science and music programs.

Three Village superintendent Cheryl Pedisich was appreciative of residents’ support, saying that Tuesday’s result is a reflection of their values.

“I am most proud of our ability to sustain programs and services we value most without reducing any for budgetary needs.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

“I am most proud of our ability to sustain programs and services we value most without reducing any for budgetary needs,” she said.

“It’s a real affirmation and validation,” said board president William Connors.

He acknowledged that residents “pay a lot of taxes” and said he appreciated their confidence in the board and the administration’s fiscal responsibility.

A small increase in state aid, along with shrinking enrollment and retirements, helped pave the way to some budget additions. Those include another high school guidance counselor and district psychologist and an assistant athletic trainer, officials said. The elementary grades will benefit from the addition of a third-grade orchestra program, along with new assistant teachers to help prepare for the 2020 implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, which addresses disciplinary core ideas, scientific and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts.

The district will restructure and combine some of its administrative positions by introducing a chair of foreign language and English as a New Language for kinder-garten through 12th grade. It will also create two coordinating chairs of physical education and health to oversee elementary and secondary grades.

There will also be change at Ward Melville High School. Principal Alan Baum will become executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources and move to the North Country administration building. William Bernhard, currently principal at P.J. Gelinas Junior High, will step into a new role as principal at Ward Melville.

Board president Connors and trustee Deanna Bavlnka ran unopposed to retain their board seats for three more years.

“I’m thrilled,” Connors said about starting his third term. “I enjoy what I’m doing.”

Before rejoining the board in 2012, he had served on the Three Village school board from 1994-2006. When he and his wife moved to Three Village 46 years ago, he said, it was because of the quality of the schools.

“It’s a real affirmation and validation.”

— William Connors

After 18 years of board service, it is “fulfilling to have had an impact on the educational programs,” he said.

Bavlnka, who has served on the board since 2011, said she’s excited and particularly pleased with the positive community engagement. With the goal of fostering communication and interaction between parents and Three Village faculty and administrators, Bavlnka has maintained the Facebook page, Three Village Connection, since 2013. She said she is proud to see that it has been a success.

Other district news

Three Village will enter into a new contract with Suffolk Transportation Service Inc., the bus company that currently provides student transportation to and from school, field trips and athletic events. While contracts between school districts and bus companies can be extended at a rate increase equal to the consumer price index, if both parties agree, the CPI has been low, and Suffolk Transportation did not want an extension of the old contract, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.

After sending out requests for proposals and considering three bus companies, the school district chose to continue with Suffolk Transportation and will pay an increased rate of 16 percent, Carlson said. The district will extend its contract with Acme Bus Corp., which provides mini-bus service, without a rate increase.

Following the resignation of the district’s treasurer, who will be attending graduate school, the administration has decided not to refill the position. Instead, it will assign treasurer duties to another staff member and issue a $10,000 a year stipend. This will save the district $70,000, Carlson said.

Elwood Middle School will get a new roof with the passage of Proposition 1 by voters. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Huntington, voters went to polls May 15 and gave their stamp of approval to their districts’ 2018-19 budgets. Many of the districts are planning to use funds to increase their security measures in schools or make critical infrastructure and building repairs.

Yet, threat of hazardous weather and early evening storms made for a light voter turnout, with fewer ballots being cast than in previous years. This disappointed some board of education members, who rely on their taxpayers’ votes as a critical measure of community feedback.

Harborfields 2018-19 budget

Harborfields voters approved the district’s $86,086,696 budget for the 2018-19 school year, by 966 votes to 275 votes. The approved budget is an increase of nearly $2 million over the current year and will impose tax levy increase of 2.19 percent for district taxpayers.

“The community’s continued support of the district allows us to provide a ‘world-class’ education to the children of our community,” Harborfields Superintendent Francesco Ianni said. “We look forward to implementing several enhancements to the curriculum for next year, including the restructuring of the high school science research program and a new literacy curriculum. In addition, the proposed budget will allow us to enhance security throughout the district.”

Harborfields votes by the numbers

$86M budget: 966 Yes votes to 275 No votes

Board of education
Suzie Lustig: 949 votes
Steve Engelmann: 862 votes
Joseph Savaglio: 744 votes

The superintendent said the district will reorganize its pupil personnel services department to include a chairperson of special education, allowing the school psychologist more time for child-focused responsibilities.

The proposed spending plan features funding to restructure Harborfields High School’s science research program to allow the teacher to have dedicated time set aside to support students in their individual pursuit of science inquiry. Other enhancements contained in the district’s approved budget include a new literacy curriculum; additional resources for science classes districtwide; and new educational classes in engineering, computer science and business entrepreneurship.

The average Harborfields school district resident will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $222.80 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $4,000, in which an assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

“The community’s input was vital to the creation of this budget, so I thank those residents who participated throughout the process and those who took the time to vote,” Ianni said.

Harborfields board of education

There were three candidates running uncontested for three seats on Harborfields board of education in this year’s election.

Current Vice President Suzie Lustig received 949 votes and was re-elected to her seat. Newcomers Steve Engelmann received 862 voters and Joseph Savaglio received 744 to join the district as board trustees starting in the 2018-19 school year.

Elwood school district

Elwood taxpayers passed the district’s $61,606,082 budget for the 2018-19 school year by 896 votes to 327 votes. The adopted budget is an increase of nearly $1.3 million over the current year. It represents a tax levy increase of 2.71 percent, which fell under the state-mandated tax cap.

Elwood votes by the numbers

$61.6M budget: 896 Yes votes to 327 No votes
Proposition 2: 854 Yes votes to 345 No votes

Board of education (uncontested)
Heather Mammolito: 918 votes
James Tomeo: 983 votes

“On behalf of the entire administration and board of education, I would like to thank all residents who voted in support of the proposed 2018-19 budget,” Elwood Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said in a statement. “Your support will allow the district to continue to enhance our academic program for our students, as well as increase security throughout the district. We are continually grateful to the Elwood community for its support of our district.”

Proposition 2

Voters cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 2, approving by 854 votes to 345 votes. The measure will allow school officials to create a capital reserve fund for future improvement projects that were not included in the bond approved earlier this year. Under the terms approved, the district will set aside a maximum of $500,000 a year, not to exceed a total of $5 million over a 10-year period to help pay for capital projects.

Elwood board of education

Two incumbent Elwood board of education trustees ran unopposed for another term serving their community. Trustee Heather Mammolito received 918 votes and trustee James Tomeo, received 983 votes to be re-elected to their seats.

Northport-East Northport school district. File photo

Northport voters have approved the district’s 2018-19 school budget and elected a new face to serve their community May 15.

2018-19 school budget 

Northport and East Northport residents approved the district’s $166,810,381 budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, 2,287 votes to 754 votes. The budget contains a 2.15 percent year-to-year increase, or $3.5 million more than the current year.

The district’s approved spending plan will allow starting a new alternative high school program for students struggling with the traditional model and expand the district’s coteaching model across all grade levels. It will also be able to move forward with its one-to-one Chromebook initiative by providing personal laptops with Google applications to students entering ninth grade as well as purchasing a new piano for its music department. There are also funds set aside in the 2018-19 budget to purchase new athletic
equipment for student-athletes including lacrosse helmets, treadmills, ellipticals and additional automated external defibrillators.


Northport budget results
$166.8M budget: 2,287 Yes votes to 754 No votes
Proposition 2: 2,524 Yes votes to 555 No votes
Proposition 3: 2,403 Yes votes to 696 No votes

Board of education results
Victorria Buscareno: 2,195 votes
David Stein: 2,173 votes
David Badanes: 1,915 votes
Thomas Loughran:  1,612 votes

The average Northport homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $159 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,800, in which an assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

Proposition 2

District voters cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 2, by 2,524 votes to 555 votes, Tuesday night. The measure will allow the district to take $900,000 out of the district’s capital reserve funds for infrastructure upgrades and repair. The list of districtwide projects includes fencing and gate replacement, door replacements, window replacement and heating and air conditioning unit upgrades and enhancements.

Proposition 3

Taxpayers also gave their stamp of approval to Proposition 3, by 2,403 votes to 696 votes. The district will be able to establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund. The board members said that the fund is necessary for several critical infrastructural improvements including roof replacements of its buildings, window replacement, bathroom replacement, masonry and concrete work, floor replacement, wall replacement, classroom renovations, library and multimedia center renovations and gym reconstruction among other projects. The district has put forth that a maximum of $20 million will be placed into this fund along with any investment income the account earns for a term of 10 years. Under the terms of Proposition 2, the district would move no more than $1 million from the remaining 2017-18 budget into the fund to get it started and invest no more than $2 million in each of the following school years.

Northport board of education

Northport residents will have one new community voice on their board of education for the 2018-19 school year.

Newcomer Victoria Buscareno received 2,195 votes, the highest of any of the candidates, and will take the place left open by current trustee Tammie Topel who did not run.

Buscareno is a Northport resident for the past 43 years and currently works as a seventh-grade special education teacher at South Woods Middle School in the Syosset school district. She has four children, one who graduated in 2017 and three who are currently students in the district.

Current board Vice President David Stein was re-elected with 2,173 votes was trustee David Badanes with 1,915 votes. Challenger Thomas Loughran trailed receiving only 1,612 votes. Buscareno and Stein were elected to serve for three years, and Badanes was elected to a two-year term.

Trustee Mike Riggio, above on right, is congratulated by current board of ed president Lynn Capobianco after it was announced he won his second term. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Instead of three, there’s four cheers for Mount Sinai School District, as all four of the board of education’s propositions passed with flying colors.

Residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the $60,203,745 budget, with 769 voting yes and 193 no. The library budget received even more support on an 849-116 landslide. Receiving the second-highest voter approval was Proposition III, which will transfer $5 million from an unassigned fund balance to the capital fund to start immediate critical facility improvements, with 787 voting in favor and 176 against. The capital projects that will immediately be tackled are repairs to the high school roof, replacement of the turf field and the hardening of campus security, mainly through fencing in the entire campus.

Proposition I [Budget]: 769-193

Proposition II [Library]: 849-116

Proposition III [Capital Project]: 787-176

Proposition IV [Reserve Fund]: 761-199

“I’m ecstatic, especially to see the community support,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “I was concerned about Proposition III — these are things we absolutely need and couldn’t wait for a bond to do. Even if it were approved tomorrow it would take two years, and our one turf field could be condemned tomorrow.”

He said replacing the roof is of the utmost importance though, noting the issues seen each time it rains, like it did on the day of the budget vote May 15, with wind and heavy rain ravaging the North Shore as a storm rapidly passed.

“I’d hate to see the picture of what it looks like tomorrow,” the superintendent said. “It’s a disaster every time it rains.”

Other security improvements in addition to the fencing, included paying for armed guards and adding security vestibules at the entrances to the campus and adding more patrol routes for security personnel near the new fencing along the perimeter of the schools, among others.

“Ever since that tragedy Feb. 14 we’ve taken measurements necessary to keep our students safe,” Brosdal said, referring to the shooting in Parkland, Florida. “When these schools were first built alongside each other we never thought this would happen, so we will take the appropriate steps so that come the fall this will look like a different campus. There’s no fluff — this is all needed.”

Proposition IV was given the green light 761-199, which transfers money from fund balances to establish a $10 million capital reserve fund.

“If we have emergency repairs that are needed, now we can plan to pay for them,” trustee Mike Riggio said. “It’s a home run. And the best thing is it’s not costing our taxpayers any more money.”

Votes are counted in Mount Sinai. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Riggio, who was re-elected to the board with 747 votes, said he’s looking forward to serving another term.

“I understand much better what my role is in everything that we have to do and I’m ready,” he said. “I ran focused on security three years ago and I’m still focused on that and the fiscal stability of the district. People are losing their jobs, programs are being cut elsewhere, and we don’t want that to happen here. You have to budget right and be fiscally sound into the future.”

Board President Lynn Capobianco, who chose not to seek re-election to focus on family, was sad to see the voter turnout.

“It’s so light — under 1,000 and we usually have 1,400 or 1,500,” she said. “Perhaps it was the weather, the uncontested board or the budget being under the tax cap, but I am disappointed in the low voter turnout.”

The president said she’s proud of some of her accomplishments during her tenure — like seeing through the establishment of a full-day kindergarten program and the Columbia Reading and Columbia Writing programs, and said she’d like to see the creation of a science research or robotics program.

Steve Koepper, who ran unopposed for her seat on the board of education, received 651 votes.

“I felt now was a good time to offer more of my volunteer time in service to educational process to help shape the future of Mount Sinai schools,” said Koepper, an 18-year resident, in a previous interview. The father of two previously volunteered on the district’s bond committee. “There are problems like declining enrollment that need to be looked at, and I’m here so that we can work together and move forward.”

Smithtown school district's administrative Joseph M. Barton building on New York Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Across the Town of Smithtown, voters headed to the polls May 15 to show their overwhelming approval of their school district’s 2018-19 budgets. Many of the districts are planning to use funds to increase their security measures in schools or make critical infrastructure and building repairs.

Yet, threat of hazardous weather and early evening storms made for a light voter turnout, with fewer ballots being cast than in previous years. This disappointed school officials, who rely on their taxpayers’ votes for critical feedback and as a measurement of community involvement.

Proposed 2018-19 budget

Smithtown voters approved Smithtown Central School District’s $244.9 million budget for the 2018-19 school year by 1,873 votes to 800 votes Tuesday night. The budget represents a 2.3 percent increase, or additional $5.5 million more than the current year.


Smithtown budget results

$244.9M budget: 1,873 Yes votes to 800 No votes
Proposition 2: 2,090 Yes votes to 583 No votes

Board of Education
Seat of Christopher Alcure
Mandi Kowalik: 1,618 votes
Christopher Alcure: 935 votes

Seat of Jeremy Thode
Jeremy Thode: 1,790 votes

The school district’s security will receive a funding increase under the approved budget. The planned security upgrades include vestibules in all school entrances that will be constructed over the summer as well as full-time, unarmed security guards for all elementary schools.

“Full-time security guards began on May 1 in all district elementary schools and will continue as part of the budget moving forward,” said James Grossane, district superintendent.

 

In addition, the district is looking to add an additional school psychologist, one
social worker and a guidance counselor to its staffing to address students’ mental health and well-being.

The district’s spending plan maintains all current programs while transitioning to universal elementary school start and end times from 9:20 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. It also allows the district to offer new elective courses at the high school including adding Advanced Placement Capstone Research in addition to the existing AP Capstone program.

The approved budget will impose a 2.95 percent tax levy increase, which is within the district’s state tax levy cap.

Proposition 2

Residents passed Proposition 2 by 2,090 votes to 583 votes. The measure will allow Smithtown school officials to use the district’s capital reserve funds to complete a number of repairs and renovations. The project list includes repairs to the tennis courts at Smithtown High School East and West, window
replacement in the Accompsett Middle School and roof and skylight repairs at the Smithtown Elementary School.

Smithtown board of education

There will be a new face at the table of Smithtown’s board of education come July. Newcomer Mandi Kowalik, receiving 1,618 votes, managed to unseat incumbent trustee Christopher Alcure, who received 935 votes in Tuesday’s race.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been elected to represent the Smithtown Central School District as Board of Education trustee,” she said. “I thank every single one of my supporters, I absolutely could not have held this strong without all of you standing behind me.”

Kowalik is a 14-year Smithtown resident and a published children’s author. She worked as a school teacher for nursery school through sixth grade for 13 years before leaving to raise her three children. Kowalik has one son starting kindergarten this September with two younger daughters she plans to
enroll in the district.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been elected to represent the Smithtown Central School District as Board of Education trustee.”
– Mandi Kowalik

Kowalik said during her campaign for the board seat that she wants to focus on security as well as the mental and physical well-being of students.

“The security of our students and staff are the most important issue that we are
currently facing,” she said. “I am prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our school safe.”

Kowalik said she believes students need time to socialize without adults actively interacting and closely monitoring them. While she said the district has explored this at some levels, she would like to continue to explore further avenues for it.

“I have truly been enjoying all of the meaningful dialogue, and I hope that people will continue to feel comfortable approaching me,” Kowalik said. “Let’s keep engaging in these important conversations, and together we will make a difference.”

Current board President Jeremy Thode ran unopposed for his third term as trustee and was re-elected with 1,790 votes.

Both Kowalik and Thode will serve three-year terms through the 2020-21 school year.

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