Times of Middle Country

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.

Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A smile, a swallow or a step mean a lot to Rob Marianetti.

It was not long ago that his daughter was unresponsive, following a bathtime incident, and doctors told him there was no hope she would get better. But Marianetti isn’t giving up on Kayla, and coming up on her third birthday she can make some sounds and move her arms and legs.

“I’ve been on a mission to get my daughter back,” he said.

When she was 17 months old, while Marianetti was at work — for Setauket-based Hurricane Tree Experts — Kayla was having a bath in her Port Jefferson Station home and was left unattended for eight minutes, the father said. She was found floating and unresponsive.

Marianetti rushed to the hospital to see Kayla while doctors were working on her. He said he was trying to get into the room with her and was banging on a door to the point where a police officer had to intervene. He learned a few weeks later, he said, that his daughter came back to life while he was banging.

“She was blue and she was done. She was done — and she came back.”

Kayla spent time at St. Charles Hospital and Stony Brook University Hospital, and Marianetti and his wife — who is no longer “in the picture,” he said — got the little girl started on different therapies right away, so she would not deteriorate.

Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Above, Kayla before her bathtime accident. Photo from Rob Marianetti
Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Above, Kayla before her bathtime accident. Photo from Rob Marianetti

The whole time Kayla was in the hospital, Marianetti never left her side, the father’s aunt, Susan Calvi, said: “Slept there every day.”

Out of all the nation’s experts Marianetti saw, he said, just one, neurologist Dr. Chris Sinclair at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, encouraged him to fight.

Sinclair said he’s seen a similar case of brain injury before, in which a child was perhaps even worse off than Kayla in the beginning but after a couple of years was walking and talking.

“So I’ve seen it before but I also know how flexible, in a sense, the brain of a young child is.”

Sinclair explained that there are connections between brain cells that allow the cells to communicate with one another, and in Kayla those have become damaged. But those connections can be regrown in a developing brain.

“When someone’s so young, [the future] is a lot brighter than it would be for someone who is an adult because the brain is still developing,” Sinclair said. “I think the sky’s the limit for her.”

Kayla has multiple therapy appointments each day, whether it’s hyperbaric therapy, which involves putting her in an oxygen-rich environment; physical therapy, to move her toward sitting up, standing and walking; vision therapy, as neurological issues have made her legally blind, even though her eyes themselves are fine; or speech therapy, which is used both to teach her to communicate and to eat on her own.

“By me doing all this stuff, it’s friggin’ working, man,” Marianetti said. Kayla has stood up, laughed, swallowed a small amount of pudding and taken a few steps. “Now remember, she couldn’t move a year ago. … I have hope.”

One big hurdle for Marianetti, however, is money. He’s gone through his savings, he said, and Kayla’s therapy appointments cost $8,000 a month. Then there’s other medical costs, as well as living expenses like food, diapers and electricity.

The treatments are expensive, the dad said, but “how can I not continue what I’m doing when she’s making progress?”

He set up a fundraising page, at www.gofundme.com/n19qgc, to ask for help. As of Wednesday morning, the fund had reached $18,000.

His goal is to have Kayla at least be able to walk, talk, eat and see on her own.

“I’m not leaving her like this,” Marianetti said. “I’m going until either she gets better or I die.”

Dodge ATM
On March 27, a resident of Market Street in Port Jefferson Station reported that a wallet had been removed from a 1997 Dodge Ram.

Dial S for stolen
Two unknown males stole a cell phone from a victim on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. According to police, the incident occurred at around 4:30 a.m. on March 27.

Unlocked
A resident of Lincoln Avenue in Port Jefferson Station reported cash had been stolen from a wallet that was left in an unlocked 1997 Honda on March 25.

Jeepers!
A 2011 Jeep was stolen from a residence on Crescent Drive in Port Jefferson Station. Police were notified of the grand larceny on March 25.

Tased and confused
A 48-year-old Port Jefferson man was arrested for resisting arrest and criminal possession of stolen property on March 29. Police said the man was found at 7-Eleven on Old Town Road in possession of a stolen 1994 Jeep Wrangler, and lunged at an officer when confronted. The officer deployed their TASER.

Faking it
A resident of Thames Street in Port Jefferson Station fell victim to identity theft, and notified police on March 23 that an unknown person had used personal info and made financial transactions.

Keg stand
An unknown person or persons removed an empty beer keg from Port Jefferson-based Schafer’s storage yard on March 25.

Needed directions
An unknown person took a GPS, cash and paperwork from an unlocked 2008 Honda on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson on March 24.

Double the drugs
A 25-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested in Port Jefferson on drug charges on March 26 after police found him seated in a 2004 Chevy with an electronic smoking device that contained marijuana. In addition, police discovered cocaine in his possession.

Off-roading
A 48-year-old Mount Sinai woman was arrested on multiple charges on March 25, after police said she drove a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer in reverse and into a neighboring home on Osborne Avenue in Mount Sinai. The woman was charged with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Feeling deflated
A woman reported her 2005 Honda Accord’s two rear tires had been punctured while parked outside the Applebee’s on Route 25A in Miller Place. The incident occurred on March 23.

We’ve been hit!
A resident of Rockledge Court in Rocky Point reported their home had been struck with several paintballs and a window screen had been broken on March 29 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Master of disguise
A 32-year-old Rocky Point man was arrested on a false impersonation charge on March 27. Police said the man, who did not have his license on him, was stopped at Prince Road and Harding Street for a traffic violation and gave police a false name.

Smashed
A resident of Harrison Avenue in Centereach reported the window of a 2000 Chrysler had been smashed at some point between March 25 and March 26.

DWI on road to Independence
Police arrested a 53-year-old Centereach man in Selden for aggravated driving while intoxicated after he was involved in a March 29 car crash by Independence Plaza.

Rockin’ Robin
Four Selden residents were arrested on March 27 for criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. According to police, three men, ages 31, 34, and 43, and a woman, age 33, were arrested at a residence on Robin Road. The defendants had heroin in their possession.

Civic responsibility
A 1997 Honda Civic parked at a residence on Hawkins Road in Centereach was discovered stolen between March 28 and March 29.

Thief won’t listen
Numerous headphones were stolen from the Centereach CVS on Middle Country Road on March 28 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Out of the closet
Two unknown males broke into an apartment on Stanley Drive in Centereach and took items from a bedroom closet on March 23. According to police, the complainant said the men had a handgun and fled through the front door in an unknown direction.

Bad reality check
A 37-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested at the 4th Precinct in Smithtown on March 28 and charged with issuing a bad check while knowing he had insufficient funds. Police said he wrote a bad check to Side Lumber & Supply Co. The man was arrested at about 10 a.m.

Disenchanting
A 25-year-old man from Islip was arrested in Smithtown on March 26 and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole Magic the Gathering cards from a location on Route 454 in Islandia on Jan. 28.

Driving outside the lines
A 23-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said that at about 2:30 a.m. she was driving a 1999 Dodge on Route 14 in Commack when police pulled her over for failing to maintain her lane.

Inn trouble
A 19-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested in Commack on March 28 at 12:30 a.m. and charged with two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree. Police said he stole more than $1,000 in cash from someone’s wallet at the Commack Motor Inn and stole a credit card from a different person at the inn. He was also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Cut short
Police said a 38-year-old man from Bay Shore was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with third-degree burglary. Police said the man stole razors from Costco on Garet Place after being prohibited from entering the store.

Identity stolen, phones purchased
An unknown person used the identity of a Larson Avenue man from Smithtown to purchase cell phones and equipment from Verizon Wireless worth more than $2,400. The crime was reported to happen sometime on March 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Not so safe
A safe was looted on March 28 at Developmental Disabilities Institute on Hollywood Drive in Smithtown.  The cash belonged to the residents of the location.

Window damaged
An unknown person threw a bottle of wine through the rear window of 3 Guy’s Hobbies on Lawrence Avenue in Smithtown. The incident was reported to police on March 28 at 3:05 p.m.

Egged
A Roy Drive home in Nesconset was egged, according to police. The incident was reported on March 29 at 10 p.m.

Mean streets
An incident of road rage took place in St. James on March 25. Police said a male complainant reported that he was driving west on Route 347. As traffic was merging, someone cut him off, he said, and a shouting match between both drivers ensued. The other driver threatened to kill the complainant and then drove away.

Gimme my pizza
Police said two men were arrested in connection to an incident that occurred at Little Vincent’s pizzeria on New York Avenue on March 29. At about 1:29 a.m., a 20-year-old from Commack was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, with intent to damage property, after he punched the front door of the pizzeria after being asked to leave. A 20-year-old from Smithtown was also arrested in connection to the incident and charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration, as he tried to obstruct officers making an arrest.

Check it
A 34-year-old woman from Melville was arrested in Huntington on March 28 at the 2nd Precinct and charged with third-degree grand larceny. Police said that between Nov. 1 at noon and Dec. 31 at noon, the woman attempted to steal money by altering checks.

What a pill
Police said a 31-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in Huntington and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said that on the corner of New York Avenue and Gerard Street, on March 27 at 8:26 a.m. he was driving a 2004 Jeep with a suspended or revoked license. The man also possessed prescription pills without a prescription.

Busted with drugs
A 22-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested in Huntington Station and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and loitering. Police said she was loitering at about 11:55 a.m. on March 26 at a location on West Jericho Turnpike, where she was later arrested. She was also found in possession of heroin.

Fake checks
An unknown person took two checks from a Huntington female complainant, forged signatures without permission and attempted to cash them sometime between March 16 at 9 a.m. and March 18 just before midnight. The incident was reported on March 28.

7-Eleven brawl
A male complainant reported that he and another man got into a verbal dispute at 7-Eleven on New York Avenue in Huntington. Both men fell to the ground and got into a fight, and both were transported to Huntington Hospital. The incident was reported on March 26 at 7:40 a.m.

Items stolen
An unknown person entered a 2005 Toyota Tundra on Joseph Court in East Northport and stole sunglasses, a GPS and cash sometime between March 21 at 8 a.m. and March 29 at 8 a.m.

Missing jewelry
Police said assorted jewelry was stolen from a home on Dalton Lane in East Northport sometime between 9 a.m. on March 24  and noon on March 25.

Purse taken
Someone removed a purse containing cash, a driver’s license and a credit card from a 2009 Honda Pilot parked on Croley Street in Greenlawn. The incident was reported on March 28 at 8:23 p.m.

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.

Senior attack Zach Harned races around Riverhead players as he tries to get an open look at the net to score a goal, in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to the Blue Waves Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After starting off last season with a 10-0 losing streak, the Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team has already turned its game around this year, despite having it’s 2-0 record snapped by Riverhead at home, 12-4, on Monday.

The Mad Dogs first edged out Commack, 10-9, on March 25, and followed it up with a 10-2 victory at Patchogue-Medford on March 27, to remain undefeated at 2-0 in League I.

In Monday’s nonleague game against Riverhead, which stands 1-2, 0-1 in League II, the boys started off strong to begin the first and second half, but its efforts weren’t enough once the Blue Waves started rolling.

With 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, senior attacks Zach Harned and Bobby Emerson connected on a play where Harned passed the ball across the net to Emerson, who placed it in the right goal side for the 1-0 lead.

Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Two minutes later, Riverhead evened the scored, but Emerson scored again with 8:22 remaining in the second stanza when he scooped the ball up off an offensive rebound and rocketed it straight up the middle for a 2-1 advantage.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the second and take a 5-2 lead into halftime, and the Mad Dogs were disappointed.

“That wasn’t our usual game plan that we have,” senior defender Mike Durkin said. “We usually communicate more on defense and we were just off today.”

Middle Country turned it around after halftime, and 30 seconds into the quarter, senior midfielder Brandon Thomas fed the ball to Emerson, who scored.

Just over a minute later, Thomas crossed into Riverhead’s zone and whipped the ball into the cage from about 20 yards out, to pull the Mad Dogs within one point, 5-4.

“I thought we came out strong,” Thomas said. “Coming out in the second half I thought we gave it a good push, we just finished off a little slow. We’ve got to stick together.”

Middle Country continued to move the ball around and was strong on the clears, but ran into trouble at the faceoff and couldn’t capitalize on some of its opportunities.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the third, and scored four more in the fourth. Junior goalkeeper Christian Brody made six saves for the Mad Dogs, and backup J.D. Kane finished with three.

Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Thomas said the team needs to slow down its plays on offense, while Durkin believes the rotation, sliding and communication needs to be stronger on defense if the Mad Dogs want to go far this season. The boys believe they can improve on last season’s 2-14 overall and 2-12 league records though, and see playoffs as a possibility in the future.

“We’ve been coming together,” Durkin said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old so we all know each other and we know where each other is going to be [on the field].”

Thomas added: “We’re a good, close-knit group. The goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re looking to do this year.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

By Julianne Cuba

At his fourth State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone began by ensuring the county government and public that he has never been more optimistic about the current state of the region and its future.

At the William H. Rogers Legislative Building in Hauppauge on March 26, Bellone (D) also took time commending the county legislature for successfully and efficiently reducing government by more than 10 percent — an initiative that will save Suffolk County taxpayers more than $100 million a year. The county executive announced that when he took office three years ago, the unemployment rate for Suffolk County stood at 8.2 percent. As of the end of 2014, it stands at 4.2 percent.

However, Bellone continued, “I’m not here to talk about where we are today. I am much more interested in talking about where we are going and what the future could look like.”

In order to combat what Bellone said he considers the fundamental issue of our time — a two-decade trend of losing young, qualified and educated people to other regions of the county — he pointed to the county’s economic development plan, Connect Long Island.

“We cannot reach our economic potential, we cannot build a more prosperous future, if we are not a region that can attract and retain the young, high-knowledge, high-skill workers necessary to build an innovative economy,” he said.

Connect Long Island will make progress on the five crucial issues that are driving young people away, which, according to Bellone include high costs, lack of transportation options, lack of quality affordable rental housing, lack of affordable housing in desired environments and a lack of high-paying jobs.

“We build walkable, transit-oriented downtowns that have strong, public transportation links to one another and to universities, research centers, job centers and parks and open space. Effectively, what Connect LI will do is to build a quality of life ecosystem that will be attractive to young people,” he said.

But, unfortunately, Bellone said, the lack of sewage systems in many of Suffolk County’s downtown areas — which are critical parts of the region’s future — is limiting the opportunity for growth.

Suffolk County’s sewage problem impacts not only the regions economic development but its water quality as well. The water quality issue was one of the three major problems on which Bellone focused.

“We have 360,000 unsewered homes in Suffolk County — that is more than the entire state of New Jersey. Those 360,000 homes represent, potentially, 360,000 customers. So I’m happy to report that four companies donated 19 systems, which we are putting into the ground to test under local conditions. At the same time, with the leadership of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Dr. Samuel Stanley, [Stony Brook University] will begin a new program to identify the next generation of septic technology, with the goal of providing better, more cost-efficient options for Suffolk County residents,” Bellone said.

Bellone announced that with the help of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the county’s state and federal partners, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), he was able to secure $383 million for one of the largest investments in clean water infrastructure in more than 40 years — the Reclaim Our Water Initiative.

Legislator and Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R) said that he agrees 100 percent with everything the county executive said in regard to economic development and improving drinking water. However, he added that the county’s debt must be cut and the legislature needs increased oversight.

“We must ask ourselves if we are going to control the irresponsible and reckless spending and borrowing, we must become more focused on the county’s ever-increasing debt,” McCaffrey said.  “We must ask ourselves if we want to throw debt on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. It’s time to cut up the credit cards and learn how to live within our means.”

 

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

The average Port Jefferson resident will pay $10.80 more in library taxes next year, if members approve a proposed $4.33 million budget for 2015-16.

Most of the Port Jefferson Free Library’s expense lines would increase or decrease modestly under the spending plan, according to a budget breakdown from the library. One of the larger changes would be in materials and programs — the library would spend $42,500 less on books next year, for a total of $178,000. Spending on programs, meanwhile, would increase almost $15,000.

In personnel expenditures, salary and retirement costs would both decrease next year, while insurance costs would increase.

Library Director Robert Goykin explained that the decrease in the book budget “is largely the result of many of the expensive print items moving to less expensive electronic versions or publications going out of business,” such as encyclopedias.

While Goykin called it “sad” that those publications are no longer being printed, he said that many of them work well in a digital format because “people don’t read them cover to cover as much as consult them for facts.”

Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo
Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo

The director said, “In this case the economics work in our favor despite the fact of losing some ‘old friends’ on the shelf.”

The proposed increase in funding for library programs reflects a higher demand, Goykin said, and more programming in science and technology, which can be more expensive than other areas.

In addition to those budget lines, the library would transfer $107,000 into its capital fund for facility improvements.

The library board of trustees has been working on a strategic plan for how the establishment will serve residents in the future, which includes improving the facilities and deciding what to do with a recently purchased residential property that is located next door on Thompson Street.

“With the plan almost concluded,” Goykin said, “the board wanted to set aside some funding to make improvements in the facility.”

All together, the budget would increase less than 0.6 percent next year, and would carry a roughly $3 million tax levy.

If the proposal is approved, for every $100 of assessed value, residents would have to pay an extra quarter to the library next year. The average house in the community is assessed at $4,500.

“The board and the staff have been very mindful of the difficult economic circumstances of the last number of years,” Goykin said. “This is our fifth straight year of minimal budget increases.”

Voting is at the library on Tuesday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright is putting pressure on the knocking down of Pine Barrens forrest in favor of a solar farm. File photo

A new bill protecting children from toxic chemicals is making its way through the state Assembly as elected officials work to keep chemicals out of children’s products.

The bill — commonly known as the Child Safe Products Act — would empower New York State to identify and phase out dangerous chemicals in products marketed to kids, lawmakers said. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) helped craft the legislation and has been pushing it forward with hopes of keeping young people safe from what they cannot see.

If the legislation is passed, the state would compile a list of high-concern chemicals made up of those known to cause health problems such as cancer, learning and developmental disorders, asthma and more, officials said.

Then, a list of priority chemicals used in children’s products will be drafted for disclosure, lawmakers said.

“This bill addresses issues of poisonous products for children,” Englebright said. “It’s very important to protect the children. And that’s what I intend to do.”

The makers of children’s products would also be required to report their use of priority chemicals in their merchandise after a year, and phase out their use of such chemicals three years later.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said legislation like this is important because there is always a need to prevent innocent children from being exposed to such harmful chemicals like arsenic, mercury, cadmium, formaldehyde and more.

“Kids are more vulnerable and more likely to put things in their mouth,” Spencer said. “Almost any toy could potentially have toxic chemicals.”

Spencer also said toxic chemicals are found in many children’s products such as clothes, dolls, toys and more. He said they can be in found things such as paint on a button or a bracelet a child wears.

According to Englebright, there are some 84,000 chemicals on the market today. The federal law that was supposed to protect against them — the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 —  “is a very weak law and has never been updated,” the lawmaker said.

The assemblyman also said he feels a bill like this is important for everyone in the state as it sets the standards manufacturers would be held to.

“We all benefit when children are protected from poorly regulated toxic chemicals that have the potential to harm development, cause illness and impair learning,” Englebright said. “I think it’s very important to get this bill to the governor’s desk.”

Spencer also said while he does support the bill, there should be guidelines and parameters set as there is the ability to detect parts per million, billion and even trillion. He said it is unnecessary to be overly restrictive as something at a certain parts per billion or trillion, may not be harmful.

Late last year, a press conference was held in Hauppauge to show parents the toxins present in certain items geared toward kids. While many of the toys at the conference had toxic chemicals in them, such a Hot Wheels cars or dresses bought in Long Island stores, there are toys on the market that are manufactured without them.

“A lot of times the effects of these toxic substances aren’t seen right away. But the impact lasts for a lifetime,” Spencer said at the December conference.

When asked why certain toys have chemicals and others don’t, Spencer said some manufacturers may be unaware of the chemicals present and others could possibly use the chemicals to maximize profit.

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) is calling on Albany to increase the amount of financial aid it awards college students through the New York State Tuition Assistance Program.

The hike is needed, Lupinacci said, because there’s been no significant increase to the maximum TAP award in more than 10 years. Lupinacci is calling for a 25 percent increase in the maximum grant amount.

TAP funding is a grant that is intended to help cover tuition costs at New York State universities and colleges. The minimum TAP grant awarded per school year is $500 and the maximum is $5,165, according to the program’s website. Lupinacci wants to raise the maximum TAP award to $6,470 and increase the maximum household income for TAP eligibility from $80,000 to $100,000.

“As a college professor, I see every day how important TAP is for thousands of students,” he said in a recent statement. “An increase in funding would give students the relief they need to hit the ground running after graduation.”

TAP is awarded annually to New York State residents who study at full-time colleges within the state. Students who receive the grant must stay in good academic standing and meet the income requirement. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) website, nearly 400,000 students across the state received a TAP grant in 2013.

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) has signed on as a co-sponsor to Lupinacci’s bill and said an increase in the funding and eligibility is definitely needed for students across the state.

“The price of public education has gone up tremendously in 10 years,” Raia said in a phone interview.

Raia said while $80,000 seems like a lot of money, given the cost of living it is not as much for a family of four living on Long Island when compared to the same family of four living upstate. He said the cost of living is higher here and the increase in a maximum award is greatly needed.

Lupinacci, who currently teaches at Farmingdale State College, said it is important to have this increase in an effort to ease the financial burden on students. He said it would help cover significant portions of tuitions at State University of New York and City University of New York schools, and whatever it could for private schools’ tuitions.

Currently, the bill that was introduced on March 5 is being referred to the Assembly’s Higher Education committee, where Lupinacci is a ranking member. If this bill is approved, Lupinacci hopes the increase kicks in beginning April 1, 2016.

The most recent TAP increase was for $165 back in 2014. Cuomo announced the increase, nearly 15 years after the last one. The bill also has a state Senate sponsor, State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has not seen the bill, said he favors a TAP increase.

“I think it’s a great investment in young people, who are the future of our state,” he said in a phone interview.

Just do it
A 35-year-old Bay Shore man was arrested in Stony Brook on Nesconset Highway on March 21 at about 4:43 p.m. and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole two pairs of Nike sneakers from Sports Authority.

You’ve got mail
Police said a 28-year-old man from Brooklyn was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on March 17 at Brewster Lane and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said the man, who was arrested at about 1:15 p.m., stole two pieces of mail from a mailbox on Brewster Lane.

Hit the gas
A driver made off without paying for gas after fueling up at a BP gas station on Route 25 in Setauket-East Setauket sometime around 8:54 p.m. on March 22. Police described the car as an older, dark-colored Toyota.

A hairy situation
Police said someone broke into a Cactus Salon on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket just after midnight on March 19. A piece of cement was thrown at a rear glass door and a suspect walked through, but police said nothing was taken.

Off the grid
A resident of Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station reported an unknown person had cut cable wires at their residence on March 20 at approximately 2 a.m.

Clean sweep
A ring was stolen from a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser while it was at a Port Jefferson Station car wash on Route 347. The grand larceny occurred on March 19 at 11 a.m.

Cash station
An employee at a Port Jefferson Station gas station on Route 25A reported a white male had attempted to purchase cigarettes, but then demanded and stole cash from the cash register. He then fled from the scene. According to police, the incident occurred on March 17 at around 8 a.m.

Not very loyal
A gold claddagh ring and other items were stolen from a North Bicycle Path residence in Port Jefferson Station sometime between 8:30 p.m. on March 16 and 5 p.m. on March 17.

Brawling
A person was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in the early morning of March 22 after an altercation at Schafer’s in Port Jefferson. According to police, the victim was punched in the face and no arrests have been made.

A taxing crime
A Port Jefferson resident fell victim to an IRS letter scam on March 16. According to police, the Longfellow Lane resident mailed a check in response to a fraudulent letter.

Cat burglar nap
A 23-year-old Miller Place man was arrested in Port Jefferson Station for criminal mischief and burglary on March 20 after he broke into a commercial building on North Country Road in Port Jefferson by breaking the window and fell asleep inside.

Cheap ride
A 31-year-old Holbrook woman was arrested in Port Jefferson after she refused to pay for a cab service on March 20.

Sneaky critter
An unknown individual damaged the basement door of the Miller Place Animal Hospital on Route 25A on March 17 at around 2:30 a.m. Police said the suspect broke the door’s windowpane.

To the max
The RE/MAX Alliance office in Miller Place was robbed of laptops, office furniture and cash between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on March 17.

Airing his dirty laundry
An unknown man entered the Rocky Point Laundromat on Broadway and demanded money on March 22. He then fled the business without taking anything.

When a stranger calls
A resident of Sunburst Drive in Rocky Point reported receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown person on March 19.

Can’t Beats the police
A Ridge man was charged with petit larceny on March 19 for stealing two Fitbit watches and two Beats headphones from the Rocky Point Kohl’s.

Space opens up
An unknown person forced their way into an ExtraSpace Storage unit in Centereach and removed three motors and parts on March 21, shortly after 3:30 a.m.

Carjacked
A 1999 Honda Civic parked on North Coleman Road in Centereach was stolen between 7:15 p.m. on March 19 and 9 a.m. on March 20.

Ganged up on
A man was punched by an unknown number of males at a BP gas station in Selden on March 21 shortly before 2:30 a.m. It was unclear if the man needed medical attention, and the group of assailants fled.

Scratched
An 18-year-old Selden man was arrested in Selden for criminal mischief after he scratched the passenger side door of a 2014 Toyota Camry on March 22.

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