Budget

By Desirée Keegan

Residents in the Middle Country school district chose to pass the $243,590,487 budget 1,658 to 418.

Doreen Feldmann

“We thank our community for its support,” Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “The budget will continue to provide the students of Middle Country with the highest quality educational experience while fulfilling our financial duty to maintain careful control of expenses on behalf of taxpayers.”

The district will look to expand upon its 22 AP and College Tie offerings, add lab space for eighth grade living environment, add math periods for students in sixth through eighth grades, increase K-5 literacy and continue the full-day, pre-K program.

Board of education candidates Dina Phillips (1,523), a newcomer; Doreen Feldmann (1,512), an incumbent; and Ellie Estevez (1,380), also a newcomer won their uncontested races, with 17 write-in votes.

An active member of the PTA and a nine-year board member, Feldmann is also the chairperson of the Selden Centereach Youth Association; serves on the Middle Country Education Foundation; and has served or is continuing to serve on district committees such as the audit, anti-drug coalition, policy, legislative, PPS advisory council, safe schools and school business advisory boards.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Middle Country,” she said. “I want to continue my work supporting children and the school board.”

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips, a 17-year resident and stay-at-home mother of two, was in the accounting field for 12 years.

She’d been an active member of the PTA for many years, holding the position of treasurer, and is currently vice president at Stagecoach Elementary School and recording secretary at Selden Middle School, which she said gives her the skills needed to serve on the Middle Country board.

“I feel very honored to be elected to represent the community,” Phillips said. “I was a little disappointed on the turn-out of how many people came out to vote. We are a big district and I was hoping to see more voters. They need to realize that it starts at the local level to make changes. I would like to bring parents, educators and lawmakers together and begin to find solutions for the benefit of all students. I’m excited to continue to advocate for the children.”

Ellie Estevez

Estevez, a three-year resident and a senior at Newfield High School, said she wants to continue to offer students opportunities for success and academic excellence.

The president of the mock trial team is also a member of the jazz choir, jazz band, pit orchestra, Tri-M Honor Society and leadership club, and is also a volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital. She said she likes the unique student, soon-to-be graduate aspect she brings to the board.

“As the district looks ahead to the 2017-18 school year, we will continue to offer our wide-ranging educational programs aimed at preparing students for success, today, and long after their time at Middle Country has concluded,” Gerold said. “District-wide STEM programs, math literacy initiatives, music, arts and athletics programs — all aid in this mission to deliver an education that offers students a foundation to make positive contributions in the world.”

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

Budget: $84.2 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total, with a tax levy increase of 1.68 percent. It passed with 1,224 yes votes to 249 no votes.

On the district’s website Superintendent Ianni thanked all the residents who voted to approve the budget.

“Thank you for all the support that you have given throughout this budget process,” the message said. “This would not be possible without your help.”

A household with a $2,000 assessed value will see a tax increase of $85.22. Someone who makes $75,000 or less is eligible for a tax rebate of $314.85, and the rebate is reduced by $84 in each of three higher salary brackets.

With two seats and four candidates at the Harborfields district this year, half of the candidates came out victorious.

Incumbent and Vice President David Steinberg easily maintained his seat on the board with 800 votes cast in his name.

Chris Kelly and David Steinberg smile after their victory. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“It’s a pleasure and honor to be able to serve again,” Steinberg said after the results were announced Tuesday night. “It’s such a great community, we’ve done such great work over the last three years and I look forward to continuing that work over the next three.”

As for newcomer Chris Kelly, it seems the third time was the charm, as the resident has tried the past three years to win a seat. He came in second with a close 741 votes.

“I’m honored and humbled and I can’t wait to get to work,” Kelly said after his victory.

Residents Lauri Levenberg and Anila Nitekman were unable to win a seat for themselves, with 623 votes and 476 votes respectively.

Northport-East Northport

 Budget: $163.5 million

The 2017-18 budget is about $1.6 million more than last year’s total. It passed with 2,074 yes votes and 636 no votes. The estimated increase for a $3,800 assessed value household is $122.

Proposition 2, which involved capital reserve expenditures, also passed with 2,197 yes votes to 512 no votes. This proposition will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, and more.

For Northport residents the message was clear: they’re not interested in change. Incumbent Donna McNaughton was able to beat out challenger Thomas Loughran for another term on the board.

Donna McNaughton will continue to serve Northport-East Northport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

McNaughton came away with 1,750 votes and Loughran with 769 votes.

“I’m very humbled by the support from the community,” McNaughton said after  it was announced she won. She added she was excited to continue to work for the district.

McNaughton was the only one of three incumbents who ran for re-election this year, as a petition last year passed to reduce the size of the board from nine members to seven.

Huntington

Budget: $126.2 million

The 2017-18 budget has a tax levy  increase of 1.35 percent. It passed with 1,022 yes votes to 148 no votes. A home assessed at the district average of $3,600 would see an increase of $111.24.

A second capital reserve proposition to authorize the creation of a new building improvement fund also passed by a vote of 998 yes votes to 176 no votes.

In the Huntington school district things went according to plan, as the two incumbents running unopposed won another term. Vice president Jennifer  Hebert and Trustee Xavier Palacios will both continue to serve their community, winning 1,037 votes and 978 votes respectively.

Hebert said in her candidate statement she believes in listening to all sides of every issue. She is particularly passionate about public school education and believes the learning experience offered to Huntington students should be the finest in the nation.

Palacios said in his candidate statement he has strived to be a problem-solver and to use his legal expertise to contribute to solutions regarding pressing issues facing students, teachers and taxpayers.

Unopposed board of education races go to incumbents, one newcomer in Port Jefferson

Compared to Election Day in November, the May version for school district budget votes and board of education candidates in the Port Jefferson area was seriously lacking in drama.

Board of education races came to a close in the Port Jefferson and Comsewogue school districts May 16 with little suspense, as two candidates ran for two open seats in each district. Both districts’ budgets were also passed, with 82 percent of Port Jeff voters and 79 percent in Comsewogue giving their stamp of approval to the 2017-18 spending plans.

Port Jefferson

Adam DeWitt. File photo by Elana Glowatz

A second proposition on the ballot in Port Jeff was also overwhelmingly passed by the community, allowing the district to release $456,000 from a capital reserve fund to be used on renovations and infrastructure-related improvement projects.

“On behalf of the Port Jefferson board of education, administration, students and staff, I extend my appreciation to the Port Jefferson community for their continued support of our district,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said in an emailed statement. “Through the approval of our school budget, our district will continue to offer our students a high quality educational program. Additionally, the support of Proposition 2 allows the district to replace portions of the high school and middle school roof, continuing our investment in district facilities.”

Port Jeff’s 2017-18 budget will be nearly $43 million, a roughly 3.5 percent increase over last year. Almost $36 million of revenue will come from property taxes. The budget was passed with 338 “yes” to 74 “no” votes.

Adam DeWitt will begin his third term on the Port Jeff board of education after receiving 357 votes. He and newcomer Dave Keegan, with 356 votes, each ran unopposed for two seats.

“I am very grateful to the Port Jefferson community for giving me the opportunity to join the Board of Education,” Keegan said in an email. “I am excited to begin my tenure and to contribute to helping keep the Port Jefferson School District among the best public school systems in the country.”

DeWitt said in a phone interview he was thrilled with the support the community showed for the upcoming year’s spending plan.

“I couldn’t be prouder to continue to serve on the board for another three years,” he added.

Comsewogue

Ali Gordon. Photo from Ali Gordon

Voters in Comsewogue passed the district’s approximately $90 million budget by a 789 to 208 margin. The district’s tax levy will be 2.8 percent higher than for the current year.

“I’m very, very thankful to our wonderful community for its overwhelming support of our budget,” Superintendent Joe Rella said in a phone interview.

Ali Gordon, who ran unopposed, will begin her third term on Comsewogue’s board of education beginning in July after receiving 882 votes. Board vice president James Sanchez will also be granted another term, as 846 community members checked off his name.

James Sanchez. Photo from James Sanchez

“There are great things happening in our schools every day, and I’m proud to be part of a team that prioritizes innovation and creativity in education,” Gordon said in an email. She called it an honor to be able to serve the community for a third term.

Sanchez expressed a similar sentiment.

“As an incumbent I am honored to be given the opportunity in serving a third term, allowing me to be the voice and advocate for the Comsewogue families and students,” he said in an email. “I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks for entrusting me as your representative on the board.”

The evening of May 16 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 average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

School officials in Shoreham-Wading River, Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai have proposed budgets that maintain and enhance programs and slightly increase taxes, all while operating within the state tax cap.

Shoreham-Wading River

Shoreham-Wading River proposes a $74, 842,792 budget for the 2017-18 school year, which is a $2.2 million, or 3 percent increase from the current year’s budget.

Under the budget, a pilot 1:1 Chromebook initiative at the sixth-grade level will be implemented, as well as a new math program at the elementary level.

Eleven new, minimal-cost clubs among the three schools, including Pep Band, Robotics, Science Club and a debate team were added.

To maintain facilities and fund capital improvements, the district is asking taxpayers to vote on a proposition to establish a 10-year capital reserve fund not to exceed $7.5 million. If approved, this money will fund Americans with Disabilities Act features, athletic fields, bleachers, auditoriums, ceilings, computers, energy management systems and gymnasiums, among other projects.

The district will receive an additional 3.02 percent, or $330,891 in state aid from last year.

While the budget projects a tax levy increase of 4.6951 percent, this does not necessarily mean a resident’s tax bill will increase by that percent. According to the district, “your personal tax bill depends upon more factors than the change in the district’s tax levy.” This includes changes in a homeowner’s assessed value and changes in the apportionment between Brookhaven and Riverhead.

Voting will be May 16 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

Rocky Point

Rocky Point’s proposed budget for 2017-18 is tax cap-compliant and maintains educational and co-curricular programs while providing enhancements.

The proposed budget is $83,286,346, which is a 3.30 percent or $2,662,703 increase from last year’s.

Under it, there is a 3.21 percent tax levy increase, jumping to $49,629,259 from last year’s $48,084,714. The district will see a 2.78 percent increase in state aid.

A total of $3,385,965 in capital reserve projects that will help fund the completion of facility renovations across the district, which include a $172,125 parking reconfiguration at the high school to make for better flow of traffic, $550,000 in security advancements, music room renovations totaling $585,000 and $1,893,840 for artificial turf on sports fields.

Some goals of the proposed budget are to maintain core instructional program and staffing, continue fine and performing arts and athletic programs, enhance science research programs to provide introductory and honors course options, add new math labs and offer eight new clubs.

Vote May 16 at the Rocky Point High School gym from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Miller Place

Miller Place’s $71,190,675 proposed budget is 0.83 percent or an increase of $587,788 on last year’s budget.

According to the district, the proposed budget maintains all current programs, provides additional reserves for capital project funding and accounts for an additional school guidance counselor, psychologist and cross-country assistant coach at the middle school.

Under the budget, there is a proposed tax levy increase of 0.61 percent, or $271,050, from last year’s $44,757,730. It will be a 0.61 percent increase in a resident’s tax bill, depending on what they pay per year.

The district will see a 1.70 percent, or $362,858, increase in state aid, which will total $21,744,776.

Voting is May 16 in the North Country Road Middle School from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mount Sinai

Staying within the state-mandated tax cap of 1.7 percent, Mount Sinai’s proposed budget of $59,272,525 for 2017-18 is roughly a $1.2 million increase from last year’s budget.

The district projects a tax rate of $255.94 per $100 of assessed value on a property within the school district. The tax levy would rise by 1.7 percent to $39,350,460.

The district maintained its K-12 class sizes, including the recently established full-day kindergarten program, AP offerings in the high school and its recently established Columbia Writing Program.

The budget added an academic intervention services teacher in reading, a second security guard, an additional nurse and three college and technical education courses including Virtual Enterprise, College Accounting and Culinary Arts.

With 300 full-time employees, salary and related costs like social security, retirement and Medicare make up the largest chunk of the budget, totaling $42.3 million. A total $3,121,500 is proposed to fund equipment needs and contractual expenses for private vendors who service the facilities.

The district will receive an additional $460,625 on top of last year’s $17,349,375.

Vote May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School.

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