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2019-20 school budget

Three Village budget vote is May 21. File photo by Greg Catalano

When Three Village residents vote for the school budget next week, they will see a familiar name on the ballot for board of education trustee.

Vinny Vizzo

Vinny Vizzo, a 34-year veteran of the Three Village Central School District, is running for the first time for trustee alongside current board member Jonathan Kornreich. They are running unopposed for two three-year seats. Vizzo is vying for the seat left empty by Angelique Ragolia who decided not to run this year.

Vizzo, the recently retired R.C. Murphy Junior High School principal, said that running for school board is an opportunity to give back as a member of “the community that I’ve loved for so many years, that gave so much to my children and to me. This is my home.”

The 65-year-old father of two Ward Melville graduates and his wife of 41 years moved to the Three Village area in 1988.

“What we have in Three Village is very unique,” Vizzo said during a phone interview.

As a teacher and an administrator in the district, he said he valued the “excellent working relationship” between administrators, teachers and the school board whose number one goal was to provide the best education to Three Village students.

Now assistant superintendent for the Diocese of Rockville Centre department of education, Vizzo hopes to add an educator’s perspective to the Three Village school board and serve as another resource to clarify and answer questions about mandates, school programs, language study or testing, he said.

While many in the community know Vizzo in his most recent role at Murphy, he started in the district in 1985 as a Spanish teacher at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, where he built its theater program. He went on to serve as foreign language chair at both junior highs before becoming Murphy’s assistant principal and then principal.

A longtime Spanish teacher at Suffolk County Community College, Vizzo has also held positions as the president of the local administrators’ union and vice president of the Nassau and Suffolk County Administrators Association.

Jonathan Kornreich

Kornreich, 49, who is running to retain his seat, first joined the board in 2008. He is chair of the audit committee and has also served as board vice president.

“It’s been gratifying to serve alongside a cohesive group of men and women,” Kornreich wrote in an email.

He pointed to the development of district security protocols as an important example of fruitful collaboration between the board and the administration. In his coming term, he hopes to continue to investigate the possibility of later start times for secondary schools, continue the development of the district’s business and entrepreneurial training and see foreign language instruction begin in earlier grades.

Kornreich runs a property management and investment company and sits on the corporate board of a biotech device manufacturer.  He is president of the Three Village Civic Association and was also vice president of the Suffolk County Boys and Girls Club. Kornreich and his family have lived in the Three Village area since 2005. His two daughters attend Three Village schools.

2019-20 Budget

The district has proposed a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. This is a 2.51 percent increase over last year’s budget — the result of contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs, Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said last month.

Even so, the budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts to programs. State aid to the district increased by about 0.8 percent, or $287,729, for a total package of $34.7 million, Carlson said.

New initiatives for the fall include the addition of a sixth-grade guidance counselor to be shared at the five elementary schools and a musical theater class at Ward Melville.

Three Village will also introduce a fee-based, prekindergarten enrichment program, Patriots PLUS, to supplement the district’s free half-day prekindergarten curriculum. The tuition for the self-sustaining enrichment program is $500 a month. The prekindergarten curriculum, currently offered at Nassakeag, and the Patriots PLUS enrichment program will be available at each of the elementary schools in the fall.

An additional source of revenue comes in the form of tuition for the district’s special education programs. Due to declining enrollment, Three Village has been able to offer empty seats in special education classrooms and at the Three Village Academy to students from other districts. These districts pay tuition — about $80,000 per student, an amount set by the state — to Three Village. In the 2019-20 school year, the district will see about $3 million in revenue from prekindergarten enrichment and non-resident tuition, Carlson said.

The budget vote will take place at the district’s three secondary schools Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementaries will vote at Ward Melville High School; residents zoned for W.S. Mount will vote at Murphy Junior High and those zoned for Setauket will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

Minnesauke principal

The board approved the appointment of Nancy Pickford, current Nassakeag Elementary School assistant principal and prekindergarten coordinator, to the post of Minnesauke Elementary School principal. Pickford, who joined the district in 2016, will take over for Brian Biscari, who will be the new principal at Murphy Junior High. Both begin their positions on July 1.

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

Smithtown Central School District has prepared a 2019-20 budget of $251.3 million, which represents a 2.66 percent budget-to-budget increase and a tax levy increase of 2.69 percent, which is within the district’s state-imposed cap.

The proposed budget, in addition to supporting the district’s financial goals, maintains the school’s comprehensive academic, athletic and extracurricular programming, as outlined on the district’s website, while increasing funding for security and student mental health services.

The school’s elementary class size stays capped at 25 students, while the math program will add teaching assistants. Two social workers will be added at the elementary and high school levels. The district will also add three guidance counselors.

The district’s three-part budget breakdown provides an overview of spending in three categories: programs, capital projects and administrative costs. For 2019-20, $187.2 million is allocated to programs, $34 million will go toward capital projects and $30.2 million will be used to pay administrative costs.

The Smithtown Central School District is divided into four voting districts and residents can vote at the designated elementary school based on location. The four elementary schools include Smithtown Elementary School, Nesconset Elementary School, St. James Elementary School and the Accompsett Elementary School. Residents can use the Voter Location Tool under the Board of Ed tab on the district’s website: www.smithtown.k12.ny.us. Polls will be open Tuesday, May 21, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Candidate rundown

Michael Catalanotto of Smithtown and Peter Tofu of  Nesconset will be running for board member Daniel Lynch’s seat, who has chosen not to run for re-election. The seat is for a three-year term beginning on July 1.

Board member Michael Saidens will be running for his seat unopposed. Saidens has served on the board since 2017, which includes a tenure as vice president. His seat would be a three-year term beginning on July 1.

Trustee Frank James will be running for re-election unopposed for his seat that will have a one-year term from May 21,2019 to June 30, 2020.

Ralph Michele of Smithtown and Jerry R. Martusciello of Nesconset will be vying for board member Glady Waldron’s seat after she decided to not seek re-election. Her seat will be for a one-year term from May 21, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

The Three Village Central School District board members, above, approved the 2019-20 budget that residents will be able to vote on May 21. Photo from Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school board has approved a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

The action, taken April 10, shows an increase of 2.51 percent from 2018-19, but Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent of business services, said the upcoming school year’s budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase. Contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs account for the increase, Carlson said, speaking at the district’s most recent school board meeting.

He added that because of the cap, there is not much room to add a lot of new programs, but there are a few new initiatives of note for the upcoming year.

One initiative is the addition of a musical theater class at Ward Melville High School. A sixth-grade guidance counselor will be another addition next year. The district’s five elementary schools will share the new guidance counselor.

The most significant change next year is the addition of a tuition-based, half-day enrichment program to complement the district’s free prekindergarten. Beginning next year, the district will offer its preschool curriculum, which is currently offered only at Nassakeag Elementary School, at each of its five elementary schools. Students who attend a morning or afternoon prekindergarten session will also be able to enroll in the enrichment program to extend the day. Students will receive enrichment in STEM, music, art and movement.

The preschool, which has a cap of 200 students, already has 196 students enrolled for next year, Carlson said. There are more than 100 students signed up for the enrichment program, which costs $500 a month. The current enrollment means that the district will see more than $500,000 in revenue and that the enrichment program “more than pays for itself,” Carlson said. In addition to covering the cost of staffing the program, the tuition will also pay for the installation of age-appropriate playgrounds at each of the elementary schools, officials have said.

Carlson said that even with the additions, the district will stay within the tax cap without having to cut programs or services. Proposed staffing changes are a result of enrollment and course requests, he said. There is a potential reduction of two full-time equivalents at the elementary level and a reduction of two to three FTEs at the secondary level.

Funding from the state — not including aid for capital projects — increased by about $287,000, he said. That is about $175,000 more than projected in the governor’s January budget proposal and represents a 0.8 percent increase over last year’s aid package. Carlson said the percentage was consistent with the average rate of increases over the past 11 years.

The budget vote will take place Tuesday, May 21, at Ward Melville High School, R.C. Murphy Junior High and P.J. Gelinas Junior High. Voting was moved from the elementary schools two years ago because it is easier to secure voting areas to ensure student safety at the secondary schools, Carlson said. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at the high school. Those who are zoned for W.S. Mount Elementary School will vote at Murphy Junior High, and Setauket Elementary residents will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

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Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, discusses the proposed 2019-20 school district budget. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village is set to stay within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, made the announcement March 27 as he previewed the 2019-20 Three Village Central School District budget during its board meeting.

Based on numbers released Monday in the state budget, Three Village will receive about $34.7 million in state aid, not including funding for capital projects. The amount is $287,000 above last year’s aid package and $175,000 more than estimated in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) proposal in January, Carlson said.

Among the district’s biggest expenses are retirement costs, which will decrease by about $1.2 million, and health insurance, which will increase by about 2 percent, the assistant superintendent said. Nevertheless, the district will not have to cut programs or staffing to stay within the cap, he said.

Decisions on programs and services will be based on enrollment and student need, and in coming weeks, the administration will meet with building principals to assess course requests and enrollment, Carlson said.

Next year, for the first time, the district will offer its free prekindergarten program — currently housed at Nassakeag Elementary — at each of its five elementary schools. Morning and afternoon sessions, taught by Three Village teachers, will meet for two and a half hours five days a week. This will be at no additional cost to the district, officials have said.

To supplement the program, the district will add a tuition-based, half-day prekindergarten enrichment program. The “fully self-sustaining” extended day will offer enrichment in STEM, art, music and movement during morning and afternoon sessions. Carlson said that there are already 100 students enrolled for the up to 200 spots across the district. Tuition — $500 a month — will also cover the cost of building age-appropriate playgrounds at each of the schools, he said.

The board is scheduled to adopt next year’s budget at the April 10 meeting. Three Village residents will vote on the budget May 21, at the district’s secondary schools. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Those zoned for Mount Elementary, will vote at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, while Setauket-zoned residents will vote at P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School.

New principal

Minnesauke principal Brian Biscari was appointed principal of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School. His appointment is effective July 1. Biscari will take over for Richard Pulaski, who has been serving as interim principal since Vincent Vizzo retired Feb 1. Vizzo, who was Murphy’s principal for 14 years, had worked in the district for 34 years. The district is interviewing candidates to head Minnesauke, where Biscari has served as principal since 2011, when he joined the school district.

Regeneron scholars

In other news, representatives from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals presented certificates to Ward Melville’s four Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars — the most from any Long Island high school. The honorees were Kelsey Ge, Maya Peña-Lobel, Megan Specht and Elizabeth Wang.

Kim DeCristofaro, a representative from the company and a parent of Ward Melville graduates, thanked Three Village on behalf of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for “continuing to provide opportunities for students to pursue scientific research.”

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington school administrators are cautiously aware of the district’s 2.57 percent tax cap in approaching their strategy to drafting the 2019-20 budget.

Superintendent James Polansky gave his first presentation on the district’s 2019-20 budget with a carefully thought out exposition of the district’s state-mandated tax cap allowing a 2.57 percent tax levy, or an increase of approximately $2.77 million over the current year’s budget.

“That number does not dictate the board will raise taxes by 2.57 percent, they could go above — I wouldn’t advise it — or they could go below,” Polansky said. “2.57 percent is the highest we could go without needing to secure a 60 percent supermajority.”

Huntington taxpayers approved a $129.8 million budget for the current 2018-19 school year, of which 84 percent is paid for by the tax levy on district homeowners and commercial businesses.

My request of having a librarian in each elementary school is of increasing importance.” 

—James Graber

For the upcoming 2019-20 year, the superintendent said the district’s overall tax levy number is higher than 2 percent primarily due to two factors: an assessed growth in the school district’s tax base, which increased the tax levy cap, and $475,611 carried over from last year.

“In basic terms, the carryover means we didn’t levy all we could have to the limit last year,” Polansky said.

In preparing the draft 2019-20 budget, the superintendent said initial estimates show two of the district’s major costs will decrease. The district’s state-mandated contribution rates to the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System and the Employees Retirement System are anticipated to drop.

The proposed 2019 Executive Budget of New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)contains funding for a number of educational initiatives, but also calls for increasing foundation aid by 1.9 percent statewide. If approved by the state Legislature, Huntington stands to receive $49,615, or a 0.52 percent increase over the current year, which it will have the discretion on how to spend.

James Graber, president of Huntington’s teachers association, called balancing the budget an “unenviable task” but requested the board make several considerations.

“My request of having a librarian in each elementary school is of increasing importance,” he said. “As we are seeking to develop lifelong learners and a love of reading, these resuscitations are critical.”

Graber said currently elementary students only are scheduled for library time once every other week. He also requested more resources be made available to help meet the needs of English language learners and additional classes at secondary school level, where some classes have more than 30 students enrolled.

Polansky encouraged residents or groups with interests in the budget, or a particular interest in the 2019-20 budget, to reach out to his office as soon as possible.

“As the presentations go on into April and we get closer to adopting a budget, that’s sometimes when people start to offer ideas and give food for thought to the administration or the board,” he said. “That’s late in the process, it starts now.”

The district’s next budget presentation will be 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in the auditorium of Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. The official budget hearing is slated for May 13, prior to the May 21 budget and school board trustee vote.

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