Education

Robert Banzer will be the new Northport schools superintendent. File photo

It’s official — Robert Banzer is Northport-East Northport school district’s next superintendent.

The school board approved Banzer’s appointment and contract at a meeting on April 1. The superintendent, who is currently the human resources director at the Wayne Central School District located outside Rochester, will take Northport-East Northport’s reins on July 1. His three-year contract ends on June 30, 2018.

Banzer’s annual base salary is $220,000, according to his contract. The board would meet each May to discuss an appropriate increase to Banzer’s salary. Should he remain in office as of June 30, 2019, his base wages would increase by $6,000. He will also be getting three days of paid transition leave “to facilitate his relocation to Long Island,” effective July 1, 2015. Banzer will be required to contribute 25 percent of current health insurance premiums on whatever plan he chooses, according to the contract.

A Northport-East Northport native, Banzer graduated from Northport High School in 1984. He was tapped from a pool of 28 candidates who applied for the position formerly held by Marylou McDermott, who resigned in January to take care of her ailing mother. Since then, Thomas Caramore has been the district’s interim superintendent. Banzer was selected by a group of school administrators who served as consultants to the board and aided them in the search for a new superintendent.

In an interview last month, Antoinette Blanck, the president of the United Teachers of Northport union, said she and the union were pleased with Banzer’s pending appointment.

“I feel confident that we will be able to have a good working relationship, and that we can collaborate to bring about more positivity and improvements to our district and make Northport what it really can be,” she said. “And I think he’ll be able to do that.”

The newly-appointed superintendent holds a master’s degree from SUNY Albany, with a concentration in social studies teaching, and a bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College, with a concentration in economics. His administrative career includes six years as assistant superintendent for instruction, almost three years as a middle school principal and three years as an assistant principal, all within the Brockport Central School District.

Banzer was a classroom teacher in three school districts since the beginning of his career in education in 1990, and has also served as a football and baseball coach.

Buttons support public education at the Middle Country school board meeting. Photo by Barbara Donlon

A day after the state released next year’s education aid estimates, the Middle Country school district made its first presentation on the 2015-16 budget, which maintains programs and stays within the tax levy increase cap.

The almost $236 million budget, a 1.63 percent increase from this year, will continue to promote the district’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as STEM — program, adds teachers to comply with a new state mandate and allocates for an extra section of pre-kindergarten. Under the plan, average homeowners with an assessed value of $2,200 will pay an extra $93.19 in taxes next year, according to school board President Karen Lessler’s April 1 presentation.

Like many other districts across the state, Middle Country is adding staff in order to comply with a state-mandated English as a second language initiative, which aims to help students whose first language is not English.

“The superintendent is working with implementing the regulations into the Middle Country school district and we’re currently looking at two to three teachers being staffed to meet this unfunded mandate,” Lessler said.

Middle Country Board of Education President Karen Lessler presents the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Middle Country Board of Education President Karen Lessler presents the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Lessler was pleased to share the good news that 60 percent of the Gap Elimination Adjustment will be returned to the district. The deduction began in the 2009-10 fiscal year as an effort to close the state’s deficit. The district will lose roughly $3.3 million in aid next year, which is less than the $9 million it lost this year.

“I want to be clear that this is not extra money that we’re getting,” Lessler said. “This is money that we’re entitled to have. It has been earmarked in our budget and there has been a reduction in this funding and finally this year we’re seeing some restoration of these funds.”

The board president also commented on why the district didn’t have budget meetings until April 1. She blamed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his lack of cooperation with releasing the state aid runs, which weren’t made public until March 31. Earlier this year, Cuomo said education aid would increase by 1.7 percent — $377 million — statewide if the state Legislature didn’t adopt his education reforms. A compromise, which included changes to the teacher evaluation and tenure systems, was reached and aid increased by about $1.4 billion.

Despite the lack of estimates in the beginning, the district put together a budget it feels will suit everyone in the community. The tax levy increase cap is about 1.75 percent, but has the potential to increase or decrease as the district crunches a few more numbers.

In regards to new programs, officials said they hope to add a science research program at the high school, which they feel will interest students. Lessler also commented on the success of the pre-kindergarten program and the need for another section.

If the budget is voted down, sports, clubs, full-day kindergarten and the pre-kindergarten program are among the offers that could be negatively impacted.

The board is expected to adopt the budget at the next board meeting on April 22. A budget hearing will be held on May 6 and the budget vote will take place on May 19.

This version corrects the budget total in Middle Country’s proposal.

Claims district violated his First Amendment rights

Miller Place High School senior Kyle Vetrano, second from left, was punished for ad-libbing a line during the school’s variety show last month. Photo by Barbara Donlon

A Miller Place High School student is suing the district for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights after he was punished for making an ad-libbed remark about the superintendent’s salary during a variety show.

At the Thursday, March 26 variety show, Kyle Vetrano, senior class president, appeared in a skit poking fun at the high school’s new bathroom policy, which allows one student at a time to use the bathroom in an effort to combat drug use and sales. According to the senior, he improvised the line that later got him into trouble.

“Is this what our superintendent gets paid all that money for? To write bathroom policy,” Vetrano said in the skit.

Following the remark, Vetrano said school administrators told him that he was not allowed to participate in the Friday night performance and was banned from school grounds during the show, as the line was not included in the pre-approved script.

“Kyle exercised his political speech rights, which are not to be violated by any government agency what so ever, including his own school,” Vetrano’s attorney John Ray, of Miller Place, said at a press conference held outside the high school on Thursday.

Miller Place High School senior Kyle Vetrano’s supporters rally on his behalf. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Miller Place High School senior Kyle Vetrano’s supporters rally on his behalf. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Vetrano’s mom, Christine, said the district is bullying her son, which is why they decided to take a stand and file the lawsuit.

The high school senior said he told a harmless joke with no malicious intent and was singled out by the district because it was the superintendent he made the remark about. He claims other students also veered off script, but were not reprimanded or punished.

Vetrano said he apologized to Superintendent Marianne Higuera numerous times, but was allegedly told that if he continued to bring up the situation, his senior prom, awards night and graduation privileges could be revoked.

“I think as an American in this country we have a right to freedom of speech and I’m just embarrassed that the district I have been a part of my entire life completely violated my first amendment rights,” Vetrano said.

When reached for comment, the district’s public relations firm, Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc. referred to a letter from Higuera posted on the district’s website.

According to the March 31 letter, students were made aware of the consequences for breaking the rules, which have been consistent year-after-year. Higuera said she was not present at the performance, but was advised of the ad-libbed line.

“This current ad-libbing situation is simply an issue of rules and consequences and not about me as the superintendent,” Higuera stated in the letter.

According to Higuera’s letter, the district will continue to discuss the “one-person at a time” bathroom policy.

About 50 people rallied at the press conference. They marched and held signs in support of the senior.

“What do we want? Free speech!” the crowd shouted as they marched up to the district office.

The family is suing for monetary damages, but has yet to decide on an amount, according to Ray.

“I was the only one who ad-libbed about the superintendent, but my comments were not with any mal-intent,” Vetrano said. “They didn’t call her out by name and they were part of a skit that was completely satirical and comedic in nature.”

Northport Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore discusses a controversial budget matter on Wednesday night. Photo by Rohma Abbas

There will be no funding for the Northport-East Northport school district’s visual arts chairperson in next year’s proposed $159.6 million spending plan, despite pleas from students and parents to protect a position they claim is key to student arts success.

The majority of school board members backed Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore’s recommendation to nix funding for the position, currently held by Julia Lang-Shapiro, and to have both the music and visual art departments managed by music chairperson Izzet Mergen — a structure that exists at other school districts, Caramore has said. The board voted to finalize the budget at a special meeting on Wednesday night, where members of the public once again tried to persuade board members to keep Lang-Shapiro’s position intact, or to at least hold off on making a decision until new Superintendent Robert Banzer joined the district next year.

But some members said they were not interested in “kicking the can” down the road, and a majority of the board felt that the arts department would weather the change unscathed.

“What I hear again and again and again is a fear,” Trustee Lori McCue said. “A fear that by making this change the program won’t be the same for the students.”

Eleni Russell and 4-year-old daughter Sophia thank the school board for including full-day kindergarten in next year's budget. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Eleni Russell and 4-year-old daughter Sophia thank the school board for including full-day kindergarten in next year’s budget. Photo by Rohma Abbas

McCue said that she isn’t in favor of adding the position back into the budget “because I think we can do better than that.” Instead, the district needs to work to make the transition smooth and to ensure arts students continue to get great opportunities.

“I think as a board and a community, we can do this, and I’m willing to try it,” McCue said.

For Trustee David Badanes, the decision to back Caramore came down to logic. He reasoned that other chairpersons at the district manage departments of 30 to 40 teachers, while the visual arts chairperson oversees a department of 14 teachers. Combining arts and music teachers would bring the merged department up to 41 teachers, a more reasonable number to warrant a chairperson, he said.

“Also, it is the teachers and their excellence that gives children opportunities, and I do not believe that our art department, nor our music department, will suffer in any other way,” Badanes said. “So it’s not about the money for me, it’s about clear logic.”

President Julia Binger noted that as the board’s trustees, they are entrusted with taxpayer money and from a financial standpoint, “It’s the right decision.”

Those on the other side of the issue don’t quite see it that way. Trustee Stephen Waldenburg Jr., the lone board member to oppose the consolidation, said he was concerned about the impact on students.

“Several weeks ago I said I thought this idea troubled me and I’m still very concerned,” he said. “And I will be honest with you, I didn’t want this. I think that I’ve heard what people said. They’re very concerned about the program. And that’s what we’re here for. It’s to protect the program for the kids.”

Waldenburg added that if the position is to be removed, the district “must allow for the protection of the program in some form,” such as appointing a special assistant to Mergen, or designating a teacher in charge of arts opportunities.

“We owe it to this community,” he said “We owe it to our children. And we owe it to the history of Northport.”

At the same meeting, the board finalized the district’s 2016-17 budget, which represents a roughly 0.3 percent increase over this year’s spending plan, Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander said. The district proposes increasing its tax levy by about 1.3 percent, which is below its state-mandated 1.81 percent cap on its tax levy increase.

Northport school board Trustee Stephen Waldenburg Jr. opposes a consolidation of the district's music and visual arts departments. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Northport school board Trustee Stephen Waldenburg Jr. opposes a consolidation of the district’s music and visual arts departments. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The district will receive more state aid than it had anticipated — to the tune of about $800,000 in additional funds, Caramore said. The district will use that money, in part, to spare its reserves — officials had planned to use $506,000 from reserves to reduce the tax levy, but will now substitute that sum with state aid.

The school board also approved a second proposition for May’s ballot, on whether to spend nearly $1.2 million out of the district’s capital reserves on three projects: paving the Northport High School parking lot; replacing lighting in the East Northport Middle School auditorium; and replacing two boilers at Norwood Avenue Elementary School.

The budget already includes $1.95 million in capital projects — replacing three boilers, exterior bleachers and the press box at the high school.

One of the most significant aspects of next year’s budget is the inclusion of full-day kindergarten, a program many parents had sought for years. Two East Northport residents, Eleni Russell and her 4-year-old daughter Sophia Russell, got up to thank the board for adding the program.

“This is one of the faces of hopefully full-day kindergarten next year,” Russell said, with her daughter clinging to her side. Sophia also took the microphone and uttered a small “thank you,” to which the room burst into applause.

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Jeff Carlson outlines budget figures. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

By Andrea Moore Paldy

The good news continues for the Three Village School District and its projected budget for the upcoming school year.

After whittling away programs because of financial constraints, the school district, for the first time in three years, is on the verge of bringing some back. District Superintendent for Business Services Jeff Carlson outlined this in his report.

Not only will Three Village be able to stay within the 2.93 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts, its administration is proposing staffing changes to restore health education in grades four through six, American Sign Language at Ward Melville High School and the Three Village Academy and full-time social workers at all elementary schools.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s official state aid projections, released Tuesday, slated a roughly 4.3 percent increase, which was roughly the same amount Carlson was budgeting for, he said, totalling more than  $1 million as the district anticipated.

Districts have yet to learn whether their aid will include a reduction in the Gap Elimination Act (GEA), a measure that deducts money from aid packages to fund the state’s budget. Carlson said that while Long Island districts pay 21 percent of the GEA, they receive just 12 percent of state aid. Three Village’s share of the GEA is $5.2 million for the current school year.

Three Village will also see some of its expenses drop next year. One example is a $3.6 million decrease in contributions to retirement systems. Since the district is a member of a self-insured consortium of school districts, it has been able to make changes that will reduce health insurance rates by 5 percent, saving more than $1 million, Carlson said.

The district can also count on tuition revenue from non-residents attending the district’s special education programs and Three Village Academy, which brought $1.2 million to the district this year.

With the finances improving, the administration plans to balance classes in all grades and to depend less on the district’s applied fund balance, decreasing the amount used to balance the budget from about $6.5 million to between $2 million and $2.5 million, Carlson said.

Declining enrollment at the elementary level is making it possible to both balance class sizes and restructure some positions. Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the administration would take three full-time equivalent (FTE) classroom teachers and the two remaining teachers from the Pi enrichment program — which is ending this year — to create math and science enrichment specialists for each elementary school.

“We’ve all come to the conclusion that really enrichment should be a building-wide enrichment,” Pedisich said. “We also feel, with regard to math, that greater intervention needs to be addressed at the elementary level.”

Lower enrollment also means that the district does not have to replace retirements in special education and can increase staffing in health by .9 FTE, instead.  Health, which is now only given to sixth-graders, can again be offered to students in the fourth through sixth grades. Plans also are being made to boost the social worker position by .5 FTE.

Pedisich called having full-time social workers in every elementary school “the clinical piece” that makes possible “the identification and the preventive work” necessary to complement the security and safety upgrades the district has made.

To balance classes, decrease study halls and increase electives at the junior highs and high school, there will be small increases to staffing, Pedisich said. Retirements will pay for the additions.

Departments to benefit include technology, English, foreign language, guidance, health, math, science and social studies.

The ASL class, which had many advocates during the two years it was slated for cuts, will again be offered by the foreign language department.

Due to a new state mandate, the district must also add 1.2 FTEs for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.

Additional clerical positions will be added and divided among junior high libraries, the Ward Melville High School office, human resources and business. Carlson said that maintenance and operations would gain three FTEs to lower overtime costs and outside contractors. There will also be additional security during the day and for evening activities, he said.

The district will restructure its current administration to create new roles without the need for additional staff, Pedisich said. Some of the positions expected to be restored include the coordinating chair for music, an assistant director for health and physical education, an assistant director for pupil personnel services, coordinating chair for junior high foreign language and district-wide ESL and an assistant director for instructional technology.

Pedisich said that the latter position is particularly important, because the schools will eventually transition to the computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing.
The board will adopt the budget on April 15. The budget vote is May 19 at the district’s elementary schools.

Rocky Point school board trustee, John Lessler, middle, said he wanted to further review the financial effects of the exemption. File photo by Erika Karp

Green buildings in Rocky Point are no longer eligible for a school tax exemption.

Just three months after the Rocky Point school board granted a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — commonly known as LEED  — buildings tax exemption, the board voted to withdraw it.

Trustee Melissa Brown made the motion, which passed 4-1, shortly after 11 p.m. at the school board meeting on March 23. Trustee Scott Reh, who voted for the exemption in December, cast the single dissenting vote.

Brown said she made the motion in light of the “uncertainty of our financial future.”

It was the second time a motion was made to rescind the exemption.

The first time was in January, when Trustee John Lessler wanted to further review the financial ramifications the exemption would have on other taxpayers.

Lessler’s motion failed, 3-2, with him and Trustee Sean Callahan voting in the minority. The two trustees had originally voted against the tax break.

At the time, Lessler said he believed it was a property owner’s private decision to build to LEED standards and not one that should be subsidized by the school district.

The exemption applies to residential and commercial buildings.

“It’s a heavy implication in the future if more and more of these homes do it,” he said.

Depending on the level of LEED certification, property owners could have avoided paying school taxes for a certain number of years. New buildings with the highest level of LEED certification would have been exempt for the first six years, then would have received reduced taxes in the following four years.

The state enacted the LEED exemption program in 2012, authorizing local municipalities and school districts to grant the exemption. In 2013, Brookhaven Town crafted its own tax break based on the state initiative. The town has yet to receive any applications for the exemption, according to Jim Ryan, Brookhaven’s tax assessor.

Rocky Point would have been the first area school district to offer the exemption. Neighboring districts such as Miller Place, Shoreham-Wading River, Mount Sinai, Comsewogue, Port Jefferson and Middle Country have not filed to offer the exemption, according to The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Rocky Point resident Danny Andersen brought the program to the district’s attention last year and urged the board to adopt it. Andersen could not be reached for comment regarding the board’s decision.

Board President Susan Sullivan, who voted to adopt the exemption and to rescind it, said the board could revisit the matter in the future once it receives more information. The school district has granted tax exemptions in the past, including last year’s veterans tax exemption. Under that program, veterans get a certain reduction in their school taxes and other taxpayers make up the difference.

Retirement incentive offered to teachers

Superintendent Marianne Higuera discusses the proposed budget at a school board meeting. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Eight veteran teachers from the Miller Place school district will take advantage of a recently approved retirement incentive, according to district Superintendent Marianne Higuera.

The teachers are set to retire at the end of this school year, and will be given a one-time lump sum of $20,000, according to the agreement reached between the district and the Miller Place Teachers Association at the end of February.

“We wish them the best as they begin to not set their alarm clock,” Higuera said in an interview following a March 25 school board meeting.

In order to receive the incentive, the teachers must be at least 55 years old, a full-time salaried district employee and have served a minimum of 10 years in the district and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. They’ll be eligible to receive any applicable contractual retirement benefit, as well.

According to Higuera, the school district plans on replacing each position with a new hire as long as the budget, which the school board adopted on March 25, is approved. While she wouldn’t name the teachers retiring, Higuera said they work in the art, music, speech and elementary fields. It is unclear what sort of savings, if any, the district will enjoy from the retirements.

The adopted 2015-16 budget, which will be up for a vote on May 19, stays within the district’s tax levy increase cap of 2.85 percent.

If the district’s total assessed property value stays flat, residents will see a tax rate of nearly $260 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of a little more than $7 from the current year.

The proposed $70 million budget increases are just shy of $1 million from the current year, and all programs are maintained. In addition, the district will add new instructional initiatives, student support services and extracurricular activities. New courses, such as sports medicine, a performance class and an English elective will be offered.

The district will also implement an English language learners program, for students whose primary language is not English. According to the district, there are 25 students who speak 11 different languages and the program is catered toward those students.

According to a budget presentation, the district will increase its contribution to its capital fund by $50,000 to bring the total yearly contribution to $150,000. The monies will be used for future capital project work.

The budget also allocates for a one-time payment of $32,673 for a food services software program, as the district still uses pen and paper to track lunch purchases.

Earlier this year, board President Mike Unger said he was pleased the district stayed within the tax cap, while still maintaining programs and staff.

“This is all due to the fiscal excellence of our district and sheds light on the collaborative relationship we share with our valued employees and partners in education,” Unger said. “This is a great budget for the students, parents, staff and taxpayers.”

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Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella will be staying with the district for at least another four years, as his contract has been extended through August 2020.

At Monday’s board of education meeting, the board approved the amended contract, which includes an $8,000 salary increase in 2015-16 for the five-year superintendent.

It will be the first raise for Rella, who took the helm in September 2010 at a $200,000 salary.

In addition to the salary increase, Rella will be contributing 17 percent to his health benefits. While that number is slightly lower than in previous years, the district switched health insurance companies, resulting in lower premiums.

The contract does not absolutely define Rella’s salary and benefits from 2016-17 and beyond — the board must meet with him and discuss those points each year.

Shortly after voting on the contract, the board thanked the superintendent, who was once principal of the high school, for his hard work and dedication to the district.

Board President John Swenning said that Rella has been a blessing to the Comsewogue community.

“You can’t go anywhere that he is not recognized by students and parents.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

Just a few hours before the New York State Legislature approved the state’s 2015-16 budget, which includes a number of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform initiatives, school districts across the North Shore finally got to know how much aid they’ll receive next year.

The state aid runs showed districts getting more than they expected, since many budgeted around a 1.7 percent increase. Earlier this year, Cuomo (D) announced state aid would only increase by $377 million — a 1.7 percent increase from this year — if his state education reforms didn’t pass the Legislature.

And while not all of the initiatives passed, a few did, so the aid increased by about $1.4 billion statewide.

“This is a plan that keeps spending under 2 percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the upstate economy in a generation,” Cuomo said in a statement.

But not all were convinced the education initiatives would reform public schools.

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 amends the teacher evaluation system, changes the time to gain tenure from three to four years and creates two designations for failing schools. The hot-button item, though, was the teacher evaluation system.

Under the act, the State Education Department will develop a new teacher evaluation system by June 30, which school districts will then have to locally negotiate and enact by Nov. 15 in order to receive their allotted aid. The system also includes a component based on students’ performance on the state’s common core-aligned tests. The evaluation system was last changed in 2013.

In a phone interview on Wednesday morning, Middle Country Central School District Superintendent Roberta Gerold, who is also president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said she believed the change to the system was misguided, and wished elected officials would have learned that “rushing into a system that doesn’t have details attached” — as was the case in 2013 — doesn’t work.

Some Assembly members said they shared Gerold’s concerns.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) voted against the Education, Labor and Family Assistance State budget bill, which Cuomo issued on Tuesday with a message of necessity. When asked about the reforms, Englebright immediately interjected, “they are not reforms,” he said.

He said he voted against the measure because it was unclear as to how it would impact students.

“[It] doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements, but those improvements need to make sense,” he said.

Englebright strayed from his fellow party members by voting against the bill, which he said was a difficult decision.

“The people who sent me [to Albany] are the ones who I finally had to vote in accordance with,” he said.

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) said in a press release the education measure “takes away local control and is downright insulting to principals, administrators and teachers.”

While most North Shore Assembly officials voted down the education component, Mike Fitzpatrick (R- St. James) voted yes. In a phone interview Wednesday, Fitzpatrick said he stood by his decision.

He said he believed the reforms would bring more accountability to the system, which needed to be reformed. Fitzpatrick also said the amendments take away some of the New York State United Teachers union’s power. The union referred to the changes as a disgrace and the evaluation system as a sham.

“Good teachers, and they know who they are, they don’t have anything to worry about,” Fitzpatrick said.

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

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Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali explained the district’s budget proposal last week. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Comsewogue School District hopes to adopt a budget that increases staff while staying within the state-imposed limit on its tax increase.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali explained during a school board workshop on March 26 that the budget proposal would also reduce the district’s dependency on its reserves and make security improvements.

The budget was originally proposed at that workshop to be $85.6 million, or a 2.7 percent increase over the current year’s budget, funded in part through an expected increase in state aid.

But after preliminary state aid numbers were released on Tuesday, showing Comsewogue receiving less than the $2 million bump it expected, the district is changing its budget proposal — Casali said in an email that the plan is to slash the budget by $400,000.

“Our overall goal is to stay under the property tax cap,” Casali said last week, referring to New York State’s cap on how much municipalities and school districts can increase their tax levy each year.

Comsewogue may raise its by 2.2 percent next year, and the budget proposal meets that cap.

Under the budget plan, the district would add a librarian, so that each school in the district would have one, and Comsewogue would replace its deans, who also have teaching responsibilities, with assistant principals to create more flexibility.

At John F. Kennedy Middle School, where there is already one assistant principal, the plan is to replace the part-time dean with a full-time assistant principal. At Comsewogue High School, the dean will become two assistant principals.

The district is also hoping to add assistant athletic coaches into the mix, for student safety and to help develop a stronger athletic program. In the past, those roles were cut for financial reasons.

Other improvements are proposed for the district’s facilities — according to Casali, Comsewogue’s wireless infrastructure hasn’t been updated in more than 10 years, and some classrooms need to be refurbished. Officials also hope to add cameras and other upgrades to the security system, based on recommendations from a security study that was completed last year.

While the budget has not been finalized, Superintendent Joe Rella said, “Whatever budget is put up [for a public vote] in May will be under the tax cap.”

Also on the ballot will be a proposition on transportation, to add bus service for 38 JFK Middle School students who currently walk to school. The students live within a half-mile of the building, which keeps them off the buses, but the heavy snow covering sidewalks this winter led the kids to walk in the street and spurred the transportation proposal.

The extra bus riders will not add cost to the taxpayer, as the district would reconfigure current bus routes to accommodate the kids.

The school board will adopt a budget at its meeting on April 13.

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