Budget

Huntington High School. File Photo

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.

2018-19 budget

Huntington’s taxpayers passed Huntington Public School’s $129,812,991 budget for the 2018-19 school year by 1,215 votes to 314 votes, or approximately 80 percent approval. The adopted spending plan has a budget-to-budget increase of 2.85 percent, or approximately $3.6 million more than the current year.

“I’m very thankful, obviously very pleased, but very thankful that the community continues to support our budget and additional propositions,” Huntington Superintendent James Polansky said. “It really makes a difference in the lives and education of our kids.”


Huntington 2018 budget results

$129.8M  budget: 1,1215 Yes votes to 314 No votes
Proposition 2:  1,293 Yes votes to 209 No votes
Proposition 3: 1,260 Yes votes to 238 No votes

Board of Education Candidates
Christine Biernacki 1,029 Votes
Thomas DiGiacomo 897 votes
Lynda Tine-D’Anna 816 votes
Michele Deegan 686 votes
Alvin White 566 votes

Polansky said the district’s spending plan has set aside funds to continue to increase and expand its education programs. Huntington High School will have a computer science course added as well as a virtual enterprise course — a new business elective which simulates an entrepreneurial business for students to run.

The average Huntington homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $213.69, or approximately $17.81 a month. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,430, 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 residents approved Proposition 2 by 1,293 to 209 votes. The measure will allow Huntington school officials to withdraw about $7 million from the district’s capital reserves fund for critical infrastructure repairs. The list of projects includes the replacement of the roofs at three elementary schools, Flower Hill, Jefferson and Southdown at $1.5 million each; tile replacement in 17 bathrooms at Jefferson and Nathaniel Woodhull School; security vestibules at Flower Hill and Washington primary schools; and replacing two of Woodhull’s boilers.

Proposition 3

Voters also cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 3, which passed 1,260 votes to 238 votes.

The district can move forward to create a new building improvement fund. The superintendent said the fund is necessary in order to transfer money from the district’s existing repair reserve, which can primarily be used in emergencies, to a newly named capital reserve that will be used for turf field replacement.

Huntington board of education

Huntington school district residents decided to choose experienced representatives rather than seeking new voices as they selected between five candidates running for three open seats on their board of education.

Incumbent Christine Biernacki, receiving 1,029 votes, and Thomas DiGiacomo, receiving 897 votes, were both re-elected to serve another term. Newcomer Lynda Tine-D`Anna received 816 votes and will take the seat of trustee Emily Rogan, who did not run for re-election. Challengers Michele Deegan received 686 votes, followed by Alvin White who received 566 votes.

“I want to thank voters so much for their support,” Tine-D’Anna said. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work for them, to work for all the children and to work together with this great administration and the teachers we have.”

Tine-D’Anna has lived in Huntington Village for 21 years and is a world language teacher in the Syosset school district. She has served on many leadership committees including the high school steering committee for the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence application process, chair of the district’s Middle State Accreditation Evaluation Committee and as a founding member of the high school’s professional development program.

The newly elected trustee has also served as Huntington school district’s Special Education PTA board member and volunteer.

She lives with her husband, Nick, and four children, who attend the district, including a high school senior and sophomore; a J. Taylor Finley Middle School eighth-grader and a sixth-grader at Woodhull Intermediate School.

Tine-D’Anna was immediately congratulated on her win by Rogan, White and several candidates and school administrators on Tuesday night.

“We had five outstanding candidates running for board of education, and to be honest, I would be happy to work with any of them,” the superintendent said.

Incumbent Tracy Zamek; newcomers René Tidwell, Ryan Walker win PJ BOE seats after heated campaign

Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano and Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella. File photos

By Alex Petroski

Voters in the greater Port Jefferson area went to the polls in a giving mood May 15.

Port Jefferson School District residents approved the $44.9 million budget with 774 voting in favor and 362 against, while also passing a second proposition permitting the release of capital funds for a long-planned partial roof repair project at the high school.

“I’m really happy that the community came out and endorsed our spending plan for next year,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said after the results were announced. “It’s really important. They showed a lot of support for public education in Port Jefferson School District, so we’re really, very happy about that.”

Across town in Comsewogue School District, the $91.9 million budget was also passed by an easy margin; 829 to 263. The district’s approximately $32 million capital bond proposition received 768 votes in support to just 315 against. The 15-year borrowing plan includes about $3 million in interest and will provide funds for upgrades in each of the district’s six buildings. The projects selected were the byproduct of extensive planning on the part of the facilities committee, a group of about 20 professionals from across the community.

Port Jeff’s new board of education members Ryan Walker and René Tidwell with re-elected incumbent Tracy Zamek. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We are grateful to our community for its continued support of our schools and our students,” Superintendent Joe Rella said in a statement. “Their approval of the bond and 2018-19 budget will enable us to enhance and enrich health and safety, infrastructure and the three A’s – academics, arts and athletics.”

Port Jeff’s approved budget includes a roughly 2.3 percent tax levy increase compared to the current year, while Comsewogue’s increase will be 2.1 percent.

Tracy Zamek, an incumbent on Port Jeff’s school board, secured one of the three seats up for grabs in a six-way race, securing 604 votes. She’ll be joined on the board by newcomers Ryan Walker, who received 660 votes, and René Tidwell, who got 649. Tidwell and Walker campaigned on a joint ticket, as Zamek did with candidates Jason Kronberg (369 votes) and Ryan Biedenkapp (481 votes).

“I’m honored to be re-elected again,” Zamek said. “I look forward to standing up for the kids in Port Jefferson School District. I look forward to the challenges ahead of being fiscally responsible with the LIPA challenge, as well as keeping Port Jefferson School District intact.”

The discussion surrounding the board of education vote in Port Jeff became contentious at times, especially on social media. Much of the angst can be traced to the possibility of decreasing revenue from property taxes as the district — along with Brookhaven Town and Port Jeff Village — work toward a likely settlement in a legal battle with the Long Island Power Authority over the utility’s assessed property tax value on its Port Jeff power plant, which LIPA contends is over-assessed. The district gets a large chunk of its operating budget revenue as a result of housing the plant.

“I’m thrilled at the turnout,” Tidwell said. “I’m thrilled that the budget was passed, and I’m ready to move forward. Right now, I just want to heal the division in our community and I’ll work together to figure out how we move forward.”

“We’re pleased at the results obviously, and we feel that it’s a time for all of us to come together and to work as a team.”

— Ryan Walker

Walker expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re pleased at the results obviously, and we feel that it’s a time for all of us to come together and to work as a team,” he said. “I think we’re going to have an amazing board this time and we’re going to accomplish amazing things. So, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve the people of the Port Jefferson School District.”

Biedenkapp, Farina and Kronberg did not respond to requests for comment sent via email by press time.

Comsewogue’s board of education vote was a foregone conclusion. Board President John Swenning, incumbent Rick Rennard and first-time candidate Corey Prinz ran an uncontested race for three open seats.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to serve another three years on the board,” Rennard said, adding he was pleased to hear of the budget and bond approvals.

Swenning, a mainstay on the Comsewogue board since 2005, called the district an incredible place to live in a statement.

“As a board trustee I am honored to work with fantastic administrators, teachers and staff and to represent a very involved and appreciative community,” he said.

Prinz, a district resident since 2004 and a commercial banker at Bank United, said he was thrilled to see the support for the budget and bond and is looking forward to working with the district.

New York voters on the North Shore overwhelmingly approved passing all of the proposed budgets and extra propositions, despite low voter turnout May 15. Stock image

The evening of May 15 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the new state budget delivered a school aid increase of $859 million despite a tight fiscal year. Besides general spending plans and even with some new programs and club offerings, all of our North Shore districts have kept any projected tax levy increases within the state mandated limit. The biggest challenge with budgets this year was meeting most of parents’ and students’ concerns regarding school safety. Some districts had to shift funds around to allocate spending for additional security guards, entrance vestibules and bulletproof glass windows, among other ideas to make sure students and staff are protected and feel safe.

Here’s how school district budget votes on the North Shore of Suffolk County went:

Commack
Voters chose to approve the $193,222,797 proposed Commack budget with 1203 yes votes to 419 no.

Current board of education Vice President Jarrett Behar ran unopposed and received 1,302 votes.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 829 yes to 263 no in favor of the proposed $91,947,730 budget. John Swenning, Rick Rennard and Corey Prinz ran unopposed and garnered 901, 818 and 769 votes, respectively. Louise Melious did not seek re-election. A proposition was also approved 768-315 to authorize a $32-million bond proposal for upgrades in all six schools in the district.

Elwood
Elwood’s $61,606,082 budget passed by a vote of 896 to 327. Proposition 2, the establishment of a capital reserve fund, passed by a vote of 854 to 345. Heather Mammolito (918) and James Tomeo (983) were both reelected to the board of education.

“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 Ken Bosset said. “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.”

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 966-275 to pass the proposed $86,086,696 budget. Steve Engelmann (862), Joseph Savaglio (744) and Suzie Lustig (949) were all elected to the board of education. Incumbents Donald Mastroianni and Thomas McDonagh did not seek re-election.

“I would like to thank the entire Harborfields community for its support of the 2018-19 budget, as well as the board of education for its commitment to providing the best opportunities possible for district students,” Harborfields Superintendent Francesco Ianni said. “The community’s continued support of the district allows us to provide a ‘world-class’ education to the children of our community. 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. 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.”

Huntington
Huntington’s board of education put forth a proposed $129,812,991 that was passed 1,215 to 314.

Proposition 2, which asked Huntington residents to approve the release of about $7 million from the district’s capital reserves fund for critical infrastructure repairs, was passed with 1,293 yes votes to 209 no.

Proposition 3, which sought to create a new building improvement fund that the district said is necessary in order to transfer money from the district’s existing repair reserve that will be used for turf field replacement, was also passed 1,260-238.

Huntington board of education trustees Christine Biernacki, receiving 1,029 votes, and Thomas DiGiacomo, receiving 898 votes, were re-elected to another term. Lynda D`Anna received 816 and will take over the seat currently held by trustee Emily Rogan July 1, as she did not seek re-election.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $92,168,700 proposed budget with 1,189 yes votes to 550 no.

This community is very supportive of education and the job that we’ve done here in Kings Park,” Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen said. “It’s a very supportive budget, and we have some strategic adds and supports in the budget. I’m just really happy that we can go forward with the spending plan that the board of education and I have carefully developed over the last couple of months.”

Incumbents Diane Nally and Kevin Johnston won their board of education trustee seats back, with 1,281 and 1,383 votes, respectively. Challenger Darryl Valinchus tallied 530 votes.

Johnston expressed some disappointment regarding low turnout at board meetings

“We would like to have more input from people in the community,” he said as polls closed. “This is a $92 million budget we’re talking about, and very few people show up for the school board meetings. I think over the last few years with Diane [Nally] we’ve accomplished a great deal providing for the students in Kings Park, but we still have a ways to go.”

Middle Country
Resident overwhelmingly passed the district’s $250,124,601 budget, 1,438-495. In an uncontested board of education trustee election, Kathleen Walsh, Arlene Barresi, Karen Lessler and Daniel Hill won their seats back, with 1,467, 1,408, 1,398 and 1,372 votes, respectively.

Miller Place
Voters in the district passed the $72,685,864, 616-209. Keith Frank ran unopposed, and won his second three-year term with 688 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $60,203,745 budget was passed by residents, 769 to 193 and the library 1,111 to 144. A proposition transferring $5 million from unassigned fund balance to the capital fund passed 787-176, and a proposition to transferring money from fund balances to establish $10 million capital reserve fund passed 761-199.

Trustee Michael Riggio was re-eleccted to serve a second term with 747 votes, and newcomer Stephen Koepper earner 651 votes. Koepper ran unopposed after board President Lynn Capobianco decided not to run again.

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes” to all three propositions.

The $166,810,381 proposed budget passed with 2,287 in favor and 754 against.

Proposition 2, which asked voters to approve the release of $900,000 from the district’s capital reserve funds for infrastructure upgrades and repair, also passed 2,524-555.

Proposition 3, which will establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund that the board says 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, was also met with voter approval, with 2,403 in favor and 696 against.

Incumbent David Stein and challenger Victoria Buscareno were elected to serve for three years, and incumbent David Badanes was elected for two years. This staggering the terms of board members is due to a proposition two years ago that reduced the number of board members from nine to seven. Stein received 2,173 votes, and Buscareno received 2,195, and Badanes earned 1,915 votes. Trustee Tammie Topel chose not to run again. Challenger Thomas Loughran did not receive enough votes.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the $43,889,812 proposed budget 774–362. A proposition for a partial roof replacement at the high school also passed, 874 – 257. In a six-way race for three board of education seats, Ryan Walker (660), Rene Tidwell (649) and Tracy Zamek (604) won seats. Ryan Biedenkapp, Jason Kronberg and Mia Farina lost, with 481, 369 and 276 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $86,128,785 budget with 499 yes votes to 226 no.

“Voter turnout was a little low,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “Most come out to vote after 5 p.m. Thankfully enough came out.”

Although running uncontested, incumbent Ed Casswell and newcomer Gregory Amendola were elected to the board of education, receiving 551 and 571 votes, respectively.

“We have a great board of education — its going to be a loss that [Vice President] Scott Reh is leaving, but Greg Amendola is going to be a great addition to the team,” said Casswell, who will be serving his second term. “With every budget cycle it’s a challenge to enhance and grow programs yet be very fiscally responsible. With that said we’re always looking for any college and career initiatives that will open up options for our kids.”

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74,776,072 budget 790 for to 233 against.

It was a very low turnout compared to last year’s more than 2,000 that came out to vote. Current board of education President Robert Rose won his seat back with 772 votes. James Smith ran unopposed and nabbed 767. He will be taking the place of first-year trustee Michael Yannucci, who did not seek re-election.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed $244,913,464 budget with 1,873 yes votes and 800 no.

Proposition 2 passed 2,090 to 583, which allow the district to use of $13.3 million from the district’s capital reserve, to fund specific projects.

Board newcomer and challenger Mandi Kowalik received 1,618 votes to unseat incumbent board of education trustee Christopher Alcure, who received 935. Incumbent Jeremy Thode was re-elected to his seat with 1,790 votes.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,412 for to 536 against the proposed $209.8 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents William F. Connors Jr. and Deanna Bavlnka won their seats back with 1,553 and 1,482 votes, respectively.

Three candidates vie for two open trustee seats on board of education May 15

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen. File Photo.

The Kings Park Central School district is asking residents to vote on a proposed $92 million budget that looks to include new course offerings and security projects.

The Kings Park school board of education has put forth a proposed budget to the tune of $92,168,700, which represents a 4.09 percent increase, or approximately $3.6 million more than the current year.

The tax levy, which is the amount of money a district needs to raise through property taxes to balance its budget, shows an increase of 2.73 percent from last year, which is below the New York State mandated tax levy cap.

“We were pretty strategic in the adds for next year’s budget,” Superintendent Timothy Eagen said. “I think this year’s budget has some real positive inclusions in it.”

The proposed budget features plans for increased security measures. These include $100,000 dedicated to the creation of security vestibules in the main entryways of all Kings Park school buildings.

I think this year’s budget has some real positive inclusions in it.”
– Timothy Eagan

“What a security vestibule would do is you would come in the first door, and you’d be in a vestibule, but you wouldn’t get clearance or get buzzed into the building until security scanned your license and confirmed your identity,” Eagen said. “Then you are buzzed through the second door.”

Along with additional security cameras, the school plans on having the teachers download an app to their phones called Rave Panic Button, which will enable them to have a direct line to police, fire and emergency medical at the push of a button.

“The whole idea is to shorten the time that emergency services need to get to the school,” the superintendent said.

Eagen said that the new budget maintains all current curriculum, classes, clubs and activities while adding new courses. If approved, the budget will allow funding for a new AP Capstone Research program, an exploratory course where students learn to do research in any number of fields and synthesize that research into research papers.

Other new courses include an American Sign Language elective for eighth-graders, new math programs, robotics, computer programming and coding.

Kings Park board of education

Kevin Johnston. Photo from Kings Park school district

Three people are currently running for two open seats on the Kings Park board of education. Candidates include incumbent trustee Kevin Johnston, incumbent and current board Vice President Diane Nally and newcomer candidate Darryl Valinchus.

Johnston is a 31-year Kings Park resident. He has spent a year on the board and is looking for a second. He said there is still work to do on school renovations, modernization, decreasing class sizes and school security.

“I would like to see the process through,” Johnston said. “I’m a big proponent of education. I would just like to continue in the direction Kings Park is going with education because year by year the number of students going on to secondary education has improved.”

Johnston is a retired educator from the school district where he spent 35 years as an English teacher and coach. His two children are graduates of Kings Park, and he currently works for State University of New York Oneonta as a supervisor of student-teachers. He believes his experience as teacher helps him as trustee, especially when it comes to aiding students and promoting programs for kids with special needs.

“Some of them still feel vulnerable and isolated, and we need to give them the help and attention they need and deserve,” Johnston said. “They need an advocate, and we want to make everyone feel a part of the school.

Nally is a 58-year resident of Kings Park, and she has had three children graduate from the school district. She has been on the school board for the past six years and she is looking to run for another term.

 

Diane Nally. File photo

“My three children are educators, my husband is an educator, so I believe education is really important to me and my family,” she said. “I believe it is a responsibility of all citizens to educate our children. That’s why I feel the job I am doing on the board is really important.”

Nally retired as director of religious education at St. Joseph’s School of Religion program in 2016, and now she spends most of her time baby-sitting her three grandchildren. She said two of the most important things she wants to tackle as member of the board are drug issues and the mental health of students, and that she wants to involve the community in that process.

“There’s been a lot of concern over emotional issues facing some of our children,” she said. “I think that is something that needs to be addressed.”

Valinchus is a 15-year Kings Park resident and is a retired sergeant of the New York Police Department’s intelligence bureau. He currently owns a business as an expert witness providing services to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices. He has also spent 10 years on the Kings Park Youth Athletic Association’s board. He said he is running to provide his expertise on
security to the district.

Darryl Valinchus. Photo from Kings Park school district

“I think my background in law enforcement will help us with one of the most pressing things right now … securing our students and our schools,” he said. “I feel that diversifying the backgrounds on the school board will help us come [up] with better solutions and better decisions.”

Valinchus said he doesn’t want to wait for the state to give funds before they add extra security to the school.

“There’s things we can do to secure our buildings, without offending people, without making it look like smoke and mirrors, without sending our security too far,” Valinchus said.

Valinchus has had two sons who graduated from the district, one in 2014 and the other in 2017.

Beyond security, Valinchus said he wishes to provide a financially responsible budget that addresses the community’s concerns.

“Education is a priority,” he said. “We need to make sure our students are prepared for college.”

The budget and board of education vote will take place May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Kings Park High School rear gymnasium.

Elwood Superintendent Ken Bossert. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Harborfields school district taxpayers will have the opportunity to cast their vote on the district’s $86 million proposed 2018-19 budget May 15.

Harborfields board of education has put forth a proposed $86,086,696 budget for the 2018-19 school year, an increase of nearly $2 million over the current year. It represents a tax levy increase of 2.19 percent, well within the state-mandated tax cap.

“After much discussion and input from community residents, the proposed budget provides funding for additional security enhancements throughout the district, including four new security guard positions,” said Superintendent Francesco Ianni.


Harborfields school district
$86 million proposed 2018-19 budget
$1.9 million year-to-year increase
2.19 percent tax levy increase
$22.80 per year increase for average homeowner

The superintendent said the district will also 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 proposed budget include a new literacy curriculum; additional resources for science classes districtwide; and new educational classes in engineering, computer science and business entrepreneurship.

If approved by voters, 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 polls will be open May 15 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Oldfield Middle School.

Elwood school district 

Elwood voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots on the district’s $61.6 million proposed 2018-19 budget and one additional proposition.

Elwood board of education has put forth a proposed $61,606,082 budget for the 2018-19 school year, an increase of nearly $1.3 million over the current year. It represents a tax levy increase of 2.71 percent well under the state-mandated tax cap.


Elwood school district
$61.6 million proposed 2018-19 budget
2.11 percent year-to-year increase
2.71 percent tax levy increase

“While the board could have proposed a tax cap-compliant budget that carried a higher tax levy increase, they wanted to remain mindful of the cost impact on residents,” Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said. “The proposed spending plan provides for a number of security and academic
enhancements for students, while remaining below the allowable cap.”

The superintendent said the district will focus on strengthening its security by creating a new director or head of security position. The additional security guards hired during the 2017-18 year will continue into next year. Focusing on aspects of student mental health, Bossert said the district is looking to add an additional high school guidance counselor to its staff as well as a districtwide psychologist.

The district is looking to make a transition to a nine-period day for students and support more team instruction teaching for seventh and eighth-graders. There are also funds set aside to allow for the expansion of the school’s one-to-one Chromebook initiative, a personal laptop loaded with Google applications, to its incoming 10th-grade students.

Proposition 2

In addition to the proposed budget, residents will be asked to vote on Proposition 2 under which the district seeks permission to create a capital reserve fund for future improvement projects that were not included in the bond approved earlier this year. If approved, the district would be allowed to 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. If Proposition 2 is approved, there will be no additional tax impact on homeowners.

The polls will be open May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Elwood Middle School’s cafeteria.

2018-19 school budget, board of education trustee vote to be held May 15

Commack Superintendent Donald James. Photo from Brenda Lentsch

The school year is almost finished, and while students are sitting at the edge of their seats ready for summer, their parents and other Smithtown residents are being asked to vote May 15 on the school budgets and board elections.

Budgets saw increases across the board as districts attempt to increase security options and offer up more school programs and courses at nearly every grade level.

The Commack School District adopted its 2018-19 proposed budget with a $3 million increase aimed at expanding college level courses at the high school while also conducting a districtwide security review. The proposed budget of $193,222,797 contains a 1.61 percent increase over this year’s budget.

“We are very proud of our budget, and have again come in lower than our tax cap through our fiscally conservative, multiyear planning process,” Superintendent Donald James said in a statement. “All of our schools’ current academic and extracurricular offerings are included in next year’s budget with no cuts in programs — along with new opportunities for exploration and learning.”

We are very proud of our budget, and have again come in lower than our tax cap through our fiscally conservative, multiyear planning process.”
– Donald James

Board Vice President Jarrett Behar said the planned security review is based on community feedback. The district plans to put in a request for proposal for a districtwide security audit to identify potential security problems in the district and potential improvements.

“We really wanted to shy away from knee-jerk reactions,” Behar said. “These events that happened were horrific, but we wanted to take a considered approach.”

The budget maintains current programs while expanding upon others. If approved, it will expand the pottery wheel classes for sixth-graders and add 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 proposed budget 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.

If approved, the budget will impose a 2.51 percent tax levy increase, which falls within the state mandated tax levy cap. This budget accounts for an anticipated decrease in state aid, which saw a decrease in the amount of building aid among other financial aids.

Commack board of education

One trustee seat is currently up for vote, and incumbent trustee and current vice president on the board Jarrett Behar is running unopposed. He says the biggest problems that the Commack school district will face in the upcoming years has to do with state financing.

“Largely, it’s funding issues, mostly from the state, and we’re going to continue to fight against unfunded mandates and to get Foundation Aid formula fixed so we get our fair share of state funding,” Behar said. “The foundation aid formula is like the formula for Coke, nobody can really figure out what it is. Whatever it is, I don’t think we’re getting enough as we should.”


By the numbers:
$193.2M proposed 2018-19 school budget
1.61 percent year-to-year increase
2.51 percent tax levy increase

Behar is a 12-year resident of Commack and he has been trustee on the board for the last three years. Before that he worked on the Rolling Hills Primary School PTA and as coach in both girls and boys basketball. He currently works as a partner at Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP in Central Islip. He believes his experience both in the community and as an attorney helps him to work with others on the board.

“The whole board starts with the mentality of what is best for the children and works from there. Couple that with the long-term planning that the board has put in place [and] I think we’ve done a really good job,” Behar said.

Board President Steve Hartman said that Behar’s legal expertise has been very helpful when dealing with any legal issues that come up in meetings.

“Mr. Behar has worked diligently with his fellow BOE members over the past three years to ensure that our children have had as many opportunities as possible throughout their school year,” Hartman said in a statement. “He also wants to ensure that our children go to school in an environment that makes them feel safe and secure. I look forward to continue working with him as we continue to improve our programs districtwide.”

Behar’s son, Jeffrey, is in fifth grade at Sawmill Intermediate School and his daughter, Mollie, is in first grade at Wood Park Primary School.

Go Vote 

Board elections and budget vote will take place May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Commack Middle School and Commack High School.

Voters will have two propositions on the ballot regarding capital infrastructure projects

Northport High School. File photo

Northport taxpayers will be casting their ballots three times as they head to the polls on the school district’s $166.8 million proposed 2018-19 budget and two propositions.

Northport-East Northport board of education has proposed a $166,810,381 budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, representing a 2.15 percent increase, or $3.5 million more than the current year. In addition, it is asking residents to vote on two propositions regarding capital reserves and improvements to the district’s buildings and facilities.

“I think that not only were we able to maintain our instruction programs and our extracurricular and co-curricular programs,” Superintendent Robert Banzer said. “We were able to move some other initiatives forward. There’s been a lot of talk this year about making sure we are addressing the needs of our students.”


Northport-East Northport school district

$166.8 million 2018-19 proposed budget
2.15 percent year-to-year increase
2.1 percent tax levy increase
$159 annual tax increase for
average Northport homeowner

Under the proposed budget, Banzer said the district would be able to initiate a new alternative high school program for students struggling with the traditional model and expand the district’s co-teaching model across all grade levels. If approved, the district will 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. The district hopes to purchase new athletic equipment for student-athletes including lacrosse helmets, treadmills, ellipticals and additional automated external defibrillators.

If approved by voters, 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

Proposition 2 will ask residents to approve the release of $900,000 from 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

Under Proposition 3, the district seeks to establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund. The board says 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. If approved by voters, 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.

Go Vote 

The polls will be open May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Dickinson Avenue Elementary, Fifth Avenue Elementary and the district’s William J. Brosnan Building.

Details on two additional propositions on the ballot regarind capital

Huntington High School. File Photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington school district taxpayers will be asked to vote three times when they head to the polls May 15.

Huntington’s board of education has put forth a proposed $129,812,991 budget for the 2018-19 school year. The board members also elected to put two additional measures asking for the release of reserve funds to tackle various capital projects and repairs needed in the district’s eight buildings.

“I do believe the budget we are discussing this evening does not short change any educational programs,” Superintendent James Polansky said in an April budget presentation. “We’ve been very responsible in terms of how we put our budget together and taking into account the taxpayer burden the way we do.”

 “We’ve been very responsible in terms of how we put our budget together and taking into account the taxpayer burden the way we do.”
– James Polansky

Polansky said the district has set aside funds to continue to increase and expand its education programs. Huntington High School will have a computer science course added as well as a virtual enterprise course, a new business elective which simulates an entrepreneurial business for students to run.

The proposed budget also includes funds to redesign the math curriculum for the mid-level grades and augmenting the elementary school and social studies programs.

If approved, the adopted 2018-19 spending plan would represent a budget-to-budget increase of 2.85 percent, or approximately $3.6 million more than the current year. The primary costs driving up the budget
include the district’s approximately $800,000 increase in contributions to the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System, health care insurance for faculty and staff and rising transportation costs.

If approved by voters, the average Huntington homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $213.69, or approximately $17.81 a month. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,430, 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

Proposition 2 will ask Huntington residents to approve the release of about $7 million from the district’s capital reserves fund for critical infrastructure repairs. The list of projects includes the replacement of the roofs at three elementary schools, Flower Hill, Jefferson and Southdown at $1.5 million each; tile replacement in 17 bathrooms at Jefferson and Nathaniel Woodhull School; security vestibules at Flower Hill and Washington primary schools; and replacing two of Woodhull’s boilers. If approved by voters, Proposition 2 will have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate.

Proposition 3

Under Proposition 3, the district seeks to create a new building improvement fund. The superintendent said making a new fund is necessary in order to transfer money from the district’s existing repair reserve, which can primarily be used in emergencies, to a newly named capital reserve that will be used for turf field replacement. If Proposition 3 is approved, it will also have no impact on the tax levy or tax rate.

Go vote 

The polls will be open May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Huntington High School. 

One contested board of education seat has Mandi Kowalik pitted against Christopher Alcure

Smithtown school district's administrative New York Avenue building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Kyle Barr

The school year is almost finished, and while students are sitting at the edge of their seats ready for summer, their parents and other Smithtown residents are being asked to vote May 15 on the school budgets and board elections.

The Smithtown Central School District is including new security measures in its proposed 2018-19 budget, which sets aside funding for new security guards for all seven elementary schools.

The school district adopted its budget of $244,913,464, which represents a 2.32 percent increase, or additional $5,546,259 more than this year’s budget.

“The board and administration believe we have met our promise to the community to preserve student programs while optimizing budget efficiencies to remain fiscally responsible,” Superintendent James Grossane said in a statement.

The board and administration believe we have met our promise to the community to preserve student programs while optimizing budget efficiencies to remain fiscally responsible.”
– James Grossane

The school district’s security was one of the larger areas receiving a funding increase under the proposed budget. The suggested 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,” Grossane said.

The budget will also maintain all current programs while transitioning to universal elementary school start and end times from 9:20 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. It will allow 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.

If approved, the 2018-19 budget represents a 2.95 percent tax levy increase, which is within the district’s state tax levy cap. Because the district stayed within the tax levy cap, it only needs a simple 50 percent majority vote to pass the budget.

In addition to security, the district is looking to add one additional school psychologist, social worker and guidance counselor to its staffing.

The ballot will include a proposition for the use of capital reserve funds to complete a number of repairs and renovations in the district. This 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

Two seats on the Smithtown school board have come up for re-election but only one race is contested. Newcomer Mandi Kowalik is competing against incumbent trustee Christopher Alcure for a trustee seat. Incumbent and current board President Jeremy Thode is running again for his seat unopposed.

Christopher Alcure. Photo from Alcure

Alcure is finishing his second term on the board and he is looking for a third.

“I am running for re-election in 2018 as there is still more to be accomplished,” Alcure said.

Alcure is a 15-year Smithtown resident where he currently operates a small business. In addition, he works as project manager at CA Technologies based in Islandia.

Alcure said he has two daughters currently enrolled in Smithtown schools. His experience raising his kids as well as his six years on the board, including three years as board president, has given him plenty of experience to deal with today’s challenges.

“I am battle tested and I have thick skin,” he said. “These are very important qualities for public service. I survived the economic downturn where the board had to make difficult decisions in terms of balancing the budget and making sensible cuts to programs that would not overly impact students.”

Alcure said he wants to focus on investing in additional security options for Smithtown schools, maintaining low class sizes and improving district facilities.

“I’m looking for ways to continue to improve educational opportunities for students, at all levels, on the path toward college and career readiness,” Alcure said.

Mandi Kowalik. Photo from Kowalik

Kowalik is a 14-year resident of Smithtown and a published author of the children’s book titled “Stella, Or Star: Coping with a Loss During Pregnancy.” She has worked as a school teacher for nursery school through sixth grade for 13 years before leaving to raise her three children. She has worked on a number of school committees including as area representative and member of the board for the Teacher Center of the West Hamptons.

Kowalik has one son starting kindergarten this September with two younger daughters she plans to enroll in the district.

“Our school board needs a mom with school-aged children,” Kowalik said in a statement. “My family will be attending Smithtown schools for 16 more years. I am very heavily invested in the welfare of the district.”

Kowalik said 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.”

The board candidate 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.

Go vote

The budget vote will take place May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Depending on your election district, residents can vote at the Smithtown Elementary School gymnasium, the St. James Elementary School gymnasium, the Nesconset Elementary School gymnasium or the Accompsett Elementary School gymnasium.

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Andrea Paldy

With residents set to vote on the school budget May 15, Three Village officials reviewed pertinent financial details at a public hearing during the May 2 school board meeting.

$209.8 million budget stays within cap

A main point is that the district will stay within the 1.97 percent cap on the tax levy increase without the need to cut programs, Jeff Carlson, the district’s superintendent for business services, said to those gathered for the Wednesday meeting.

School board president William Connors is running unopposed for his seat on the board. File photo by Andrea Paldy

Highlights of the $209.8 million budget include measures to increase student safety and well-being and to support elementary science and music programs.

Cheryl Pedisich, district superintendent, said the district will hire an additional guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School, as well as a psychologist to administer tests throughout the district to “free up” school psychologists to offer more counseling and guidance. She said security is multi-faceted.

“It’s not just infrastructure and security staff,” she said. “It’s also clinical staff.”

Three Village will receive $34.4 million — an increase of $833,579 —  in aid from the state, Carlson said.  It does not include building aid, which is tied to capital projects that vary from year to year.

The administrators said that declining enrollment at the elementary level, secondary student course preferences, retirements and administrative restructuring, all serve to ease the path for program enhancements.

A decrease of 120 to 130 elementary-age students could mean a reduction of two full-time equivalent positions in the early grades.  Pedisich said that would enable the district to add three teaching assistants to two from existing staffing as it prepares for the 2020 implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Lower student numbers also mean that the district can offer third-grade orchestra in the fall.

At the secondary level, changes in course enrollment could lead to a decrease of two to three FTEs, said Pedisich. As a result, the upcoming budget will be able to support an assistant athletic trainer to provide coverage for junior varsity games and seventh- and eighth-grade contact sports, as well as the addition of one full-time equivalent clerical staff member. Each junior high will have its own assistant to support the media specialists with the roll-out of the one-to-one device program that equips seventh through ninth graders with Chromebooks, the superintendent said.

“We have excellent programs and services, and the community has supported us in those efforts.”

— William Connors

Additional positions include one FTE for maintenance and shifting the transition coordinator, who assists special needs students in their move to the next stage after high school, from a contract position to one that is in-house.

Administrative retirements offer the district an opportunity to save funds by combining positions, while also being more “effective in terms of the delivery of curriculum,” Pedisich said.

With the retirement of the high school chair of foreign languages, a new position that oversees foreign language and English as a New Language is being created districtwide for kindergarten through 12th grade. Similarly, the retirement of the assistant director of health and physical education, who oversaw high school programs, will result in a coordinating chair of physical education and health for elementary grades and one for all secondary grades. The district will not replace the administrator retiring from the child nutrition program, Pedisich said.

In other changes, Ward Melville High School principal, Alan Baum, will move to the North Country administrative building to become Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum and Human Resources. William Bernhard, principal at P.J. Gelinas Junior High, will become the new high school principal.

Two trustees up for vote

Besides the budget, residents will also vote for school board trustees. School board president William Connors and trustee Deanna Bavlnka are running unopposed to hold their seats.

Connors, the father of three Ward Melville High School graduates, is running for his third term since being elected in 2012. He previously served on the board from 1994-2006 and said during a recent interview that his time on the board has taught him that the community will support a “reasonable” budget, sometimes at “great financial sacrifice.”

Deanna Bavlnka, elected for the first time in 2011, is running unopposed for her seat on the Three Village school board. Photo from candidate

“We have excellent programs and services, and the community has supported us in those efforts,” said Connors, who retired from his position as associate vice president of academic affairs and college dean of faculty at Suffolk Community College in 2011.

He noted that the district offers first-rate programs, catering to all students, at all grade and academic levels, and now that also includes pre-kindergarteners. The next step, he said, is adding more vocational courses to address the needs of students whose next stop may not be college.

Connors said he takes his role as board president seriously.

“I try to present a public voice of the board,” he said. “I try to represent the board of education and what we stand for and advocate for the district.”

Fellow trustee and Ward Melville graduate Bavlnka also is proud of the district’s free prekindergarten program offered at Nassakeag Elementary School.

Director of human resources at P.W. Grosser Consulting, Bavlnka listed among the district’s recent accomplishments the elementary STEM program, establishment of writing and math centers at the secondary schools and the one-to-one device program currently in its first year at the district’s junior highs.

Bavlnka was elected for the first time in 2011, and like Connors, notes the challenge of sustaining quality programs while remaining fiscally responsible.

“As a board trustee, we represent the entire school community,” she said in an email.  Bavlnka added that the board accepts accountability for clearly representing the community “both from an educational and budgetary perspective.”

The vote for the Three Village school budget and board trustees will take place May 15, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Those zoned for Setauket Elementary will vote at P.J. Gelinas Junior High, and residents in W.S. Mount Elementary zoning will vote at R.C. Murphy Junior High.

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