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A budget and trustee election will take place at the Northport-East Northport library district on Tuesday, April 14. File photo

Come April 14, residents of the Northport-East Northport library district will be asked to vote on a nearly $10 million budget to fund library operations in 2015-16.

If approved, the spending plan would translate to an approximately $6.80 increase in taxes for an average library district resident with a home assessed at $4,000.

The proposed budget stays within the district’s state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

The Tuesday vote will also give residents the chance to elect two trustees from a pool of three candidates to serve on the board. Candidates include current trustees Robert Little and Georgeanne White, and Northport resident Jacqueline Elsas. All are vying for a five-year term on the board, according to James Olney, the library director.

Next year’s budget proposes increasing funding for adult, teen and children programming by $6,500 due to an increase in program attendance, Olney said on Monday. Program attendance has been up by about 16.7 percent in the last two years, Olney said, and so the additional funds in that line would go towards creating new programming
“We have had such an exciting turnout,” Olney said. “We would like to encourage that trend.”

The proposed budget also includes funding for $140,000 in capital and technological improvements, up from this year’s $50,000 in expenses. It’s also increasing its funding for facilities repairs and improvements, which Olney said was largely due to paying for capital upgrades at the two libraries, which have been aging for about two decades.

Improvements included replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Northport Public Library and improving restrooms and carpeting at various locations in East Northport. Other repairs included replacing new furniture that’s broken over the years and refinishing some tables and countertops “so we can get many more years out of them.”

Professional fees are also up in next year’s budget due to the district having to perform an actuarial study. Retirement and deferred compensations costs are down and total revenues are projected to slide slightly, according to the library’s own budget breakdown.

The district is projecting to increase its tax levy from approximately $9.5 million to $9.6 million, or about a 1.46 percent increase. That stays within the district’s 1.98-percent levy cap, Olney said.

Voting will take place at both the Northport and East Northport libraries. Those who live south of Route 25A would vote at the East Northport Public Library at 185 Larkfield Rd. Those who live north of Route 25A would vote at the Northport Public Library at 151 Laurel Ave.

Drugged driving
A 42-year-old man from Wyandanch was arrested in Huntington on March 22 and charged with driving while ability impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol, false personation and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was driving on Pulaski Road, and as he was making a turn onto New York Avenue, he drove over a portion of sidewalk. When pulled over around 2:35 a.m., police said the man gave them a false name. He was also found to have cocaine on him.

Crash and dash
Police said a 55-year-old man from Dix Hills was arrested in Huntington and charged with operating a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident. Police said that on March 20 at about 5:45 p.m., while driving a 2002 Honda, the man crashed into a 2012 Toyota, causing damage to the rear bumper of the Toyota, and left the scene without exchanging information.

Fake money
An 18-year-old woman from College Point was arrested and charged with possession of a forged instrument in the first degree. Police said she attempted to use a counterfeit $100 bill to buy food and beverages at New York Pizza on New York Avenue at about 5:30 p.m. on March 21.

A Paramount tantrum
A 51-year-old woman from Seaford was arrested in Huntington on New York Avenue at 9:37 p.m. on March 21 for disorderly conduct and obscene language and gestures. Police said she was removed from The Paramount concert venue and restrained outside on the sidewalk. Once she was unrestrained, she attempted to punch and kick an officer by her side.

Guilty of a sweet tooth
A 59-year-old man from East Northport was arrested in Northport and charged with petit larceny on March 21 around 5:15 p.m. Police said the man stole Tylenol, candy and other assorted items from Super Stop & Shop on Fort Salonga Road.

Punch for dinner
An unknown man punched a man in the mouth at Honu Kitchen and Cocktails on New York Avenue in Huntington at about 11:55 p.m. on March 21. The victim required stitches at Huntington Hospital. There were no arrests.

Jewelry, cash stolen
Someone took assorted jewelry and cash from a home on Edwards Place in Huntington sometime between 8 a.m. on March 15 and 2 p.m. on March 21. There were no arrests.

Money stolen
Someone stole money from a female’s 2005 Land Rover parked at St. Anthony’s High School on Wolf Hill Road in Huntington sometime between 8 a.m. on March 17 and 5:20 p.m. on March 19.

Tires slashed
An unknown person slashed the tires of a 1997 Acura Integra parked on Harned Drive in Centerport. The incident occurred around 9 a.m. on March 19.

Northport-East Northport school board president Julia Binger at a recent school board meeting. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport-East Northport school district residents could be asked to shell out $2.2 million more for next year’s school budget — an increase of 1.62 percent from this year’s property tax levy, interim schools superintendent Thomas Caramore said in a budget presentation on Monday.

That comes down to increasing the tax levy to a total of about $141 million next year, or about 88 percent of next year’s proposed nearly $160 million school budget. This year’s tax levy was about $138.6 million.

“Clearly, Northport [school district] budgets are supported by the taxpayers,” Caramore said.

The remainder would come from state aid, and right now school district officials are estimating 8 percent of the total budget to be supported by state aid, Caramore said, because they don’t yet know what the actual figure will be. He added that 2 percent of the budget will be funded from the district’s reserves and fund balance, and 2 percent miscellaneous income.

To keep the tax levy increase as low as possible next year the district proposes to use about $2.4 million of its assigned fund balance monies, Caramore said. The district applied about $2.8 million of its assigned fund balance to reduce the property tax levy for this year’s budget, he said.

The preliminary budget already includes $1.95 million in capital projects — replacing three boilers, exterior bleachers and the press box at the high school. On Monday, Caramore recommended the board consider approving three additional capital projects: paving the gravel parking lot at the high school, at a cost of $325,000; replacing two boilers at Norwood Avenue Elementary School, at a cost of $750,000; and replacing auditorium theatrical lighting at East Northport Middle School for $100,000. He recommended the projects be funded by the district’s capital reserves.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander said at the meeting that the district has a total of about $1.2 million in capital reserves, in two capital funds.

Although some district residents spoke at the meeting to thank Caramore for his work on the budget, others questioned the district’s previously-announced plans to consolidate supervision of the high school’s music and visual arts departments. Under that proposal, Julia Lang-Shapiro, district chairperson for the visual arts, would be let go, and Izzet Mergen, director of music education, would supervise both programs. Caramore has said the move, a structure other school districts use, would not compromise the quality of the departments. At this week’s meeting, Caramore said Mergen is looking forward to the dual supervisory role.

Parents who want their children to opt out of state assessment testing need information on how to do that, district resident Kim Nertney told the board, and she asked why the school district doesn’t provide “informational forums” on the matter.

“Well, if we do that, then we’re in effect saying that we’re in favor of opting out, and we’re not doing that,” Caramore responded. He doesn’t want to emulate “renegade superintendents” in giving information on how to opt out, Caramore said, and won’t join those superintendents “in their civil disobedience.” The district will honor requests from individual parents who don’t want their kids to take the exams, Caramore said.

There will be a special school board meeting to finalize the budget on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in the William J. Brosnan building.

James Maloney file photo

In response to requests from some district residents, Northport-East Northport school board member James Maloney proposed that the board create a new budget and finance committee.

Maloney suggested three areas the committee could address: making the school lunch program self-sufficient, running the district’s warehouse more efficiently and exploring gas conversion of boilers in school buildings.

The school board agreed to continue taking ideas from the public on forming the new committee, and said they would discuss it further at future meetings.

At its last meeting, the board approved a new committee called the Athletic Facility Advisory Committee, to advise board members on the conditions and potential needs of the district’s fields and athletic facilities.

Group would also determine costs of repairs

Above, a view of Northport High School's grass field. Parents have been calling for athletic upgrades at the district's facilties. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Northport-East Northport school board member Regina Pisacani has spearheaded a new committee that would advise the board on the conditions and the potential needs of the district’s fields and the athletic facilities.

The board approved creating an Athletic Facility Advisory Committee at its Monday night meeting. Pisacani said she’s currently working on attracting candidates for the positions by putting ads in the paper and reaching out to community members. The application process is underway and the due date to apply is April 30.

This committee will focus on inspection and evaluation of the present state of athletic facilities and grounds and rehabilitation versus replacing fields, equipment and facilities. It is charged with reviewing, analyzing and summarizing the state of the district’s athletic facilities in a written report to the school board and creating a list in order of safety and importance of recommended repairs and/or replacements.

Other tasks of the group include determining the costs of the recommended repairs and analyzing outside funding opportunities to help pay for upgrades.

The committee must present a five-year plan to identify priorities for the board by Dec. 14, 2015. It must also prepare a presentation for the 2016 budget meeting.

Membership will total at least 13 people, with at least six residents appointed by the school board; two parents appointed by the president of the PTA Council; one teacher appointed by the president of the United Teachers of Northport union; two support staff members selected by their peers; one school board member appointed by the board’s president; and one administrator appointed by the superintendent. Also, the superintendent of building and grounds as well as the athletic director would be present at each of the meetings as requested.

The committee would expire on June 30, 2016.

Parents have been calling for upgrades to the district’s athletic facilities at recent meetings. In January, 27 people emailed the school district on the matter, saying the current state of the facilities at the district is “embarrassing.”

“I have to say that I am disappointed in the sports facilities (with the exception of Vets Field), particularly at the high school,” Steve Kils wrote in an email at the time. “For example, lighted football/soccer/lacrosse/field hockey fields with either well-groomed grass or, preferably, artificial turf is the standard. Our children are competing with others throughout the country with these basics, and I believe strongly that we need to make these upgrades a priority for our community and school district.”

Rohma Abbas contributed reporting.

Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise

A Northport teen will be standing on the steps of Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., this month to speak with lawmakers about Tourette’s syndrome.

Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise
Jack Muise, 14, is a national Tourette Syndrome Association youth ambassador. Photo from Jack Muise

Jack Muise, 14, is a ninth-grader at Northport High School. At the age of 10, Jack was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Sponsored through the national Tourette Syndrome Association, Jack was selected as a youth ambassador — a title that will give him the opportunity to attend a two-day training in Arlington, Va., with 39 other 13- to 17-year-olds, from March 23 to 25, to learn how to educate peers about the disorder.

Jack, who says he is very excited about the training, learned about the program through his Tourette’s syndrome support group, which generally meets once a month from September through June in Old Brookville in Nassau County.

The youth ambassador program originated from Jack’s own support group — the national group’s Long Island chapter. Jennifer Zwilling, now 24, who also has Tourette’s syndrome, started the training program in 2008.

“The goal of this exciting program is to educate children all over the country about TS, a widely misunderstood disorder,” Zwilling said in a press release. “We are following the motto ‘think globally, act locally.’ Understanding and tolerance are the program’s goals.”

Since 2008, the youth ambassador program has completed more than 1,000 activities, including presentations, interviews and training sessions and, through its combined efforts, has reached over 5.5 million people.

Following the training, all of the youth ambassadors, Jack included, will meet with their respective local representatives on the steps of Capitol Hill on March 25.

Jack will be meeting with U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), New York’s 3rd Congressional District representative, to advocate for support for the neurological disorder, he said.

“I think people don’t understand, for me personally, it’s when I say inappropriate things that I can’t control and people think I’m weird,” Jack said. “I just want to be able to explain what it is and make them aware and hopefully make them better people in general.”

After returning to Long Island, Jack, along with the three other Long Island youth ambassadors, will visit schools throughout Nassau and Suffolk County to educate children about the disorder.

Jack, who joined his support group three years ago, said that prior to joining, he never really knew or understood what the disorder was.

“Jack’s been through a lot,” Jack’s mom, Stephanie Muise said. “He’s had a lot of challenges, even just today. He’s really focused on training and how to talk to people about Tourette’s and hoping to raise awareness. He really wants people to understand him.”

Jack said that in his free time he likes to solve Rubix’s Cube and do card tricks. He also sings and is learning to play the piano.

“Over the years I’ve heard great stories about the training in D.C. and presentations the other kids have made,” Jack said in a press release. “I’m really excited that it’s my turn. It will be great to be able to share my story and educate others about a very misunderstood disorder.”

Northport’s artistic identity on display in some businesses

Campari Ristorante restaurateur Danyell Miller stands in front of one of her favorite curated pieces, ‘Psychoblue’ by local artist Michael Krasowitz. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Inside the dimly lit dining hall at Campari Ristorante on Northport’s Main Street, Danyell Miller arranges the place setting on one of the dinner tables and takes a moment to admire the artwork of Michael Krasowitz, whose vibrant paintings adorn the room’s walls.

Miller, the new owner of the establishment, makes her way to the head of the room as the sound of a jazz piano drifts through the still air.

Campari is unlike your traditional eatery; it also doubles as an art gallery.

“I’ve always had a vision that if I ever had a public space, I’d want to include a gallery space for artists,” Miller said. “The first month I had it, I had met an artist, and we had a rotating exhibit of local artists every month. There was always somebody new.”

Campari Ristorante isn’t alone: more businesses on Main Street have been dressing their walls with art than before, according to the Northport Arts Coalition. Some of those stores include The Wine Cellar on Main and Caffé Portofino.

Kristy Falango, an employee of Caffé Portofino, admits to not knowing exactly when the coffee house began curating the work of local artists, but that since the practice began, it’s garnered a lot of attention.

“I just think that a lot of people that live in the community like to come in and see pieces of art that represent our town,” Falango said. “It started bringing a lot more people in.”

According to the barista, town residents have several destinations to choose from when they feel like indulging in the arts. Northport has a tradition of embracing the arts, and the village serves as a hub for local artists wanting to introduce their work to the public.

“Anything in the arts is going to enhance the community, and having art in the storefront is putting it out there. It’s putting it out there to the public,” said Isabella Eredita Johnson, founder and former chairwoman of the coalition.

Established in 1998, the goal of the coalition is to create a vibrant hub for the arts and humanities in Northport. The organization works to “inspire and support artists and to help them make connections with other artists and with the larger community,” according to the group’s website.

“I had kind of rounded up a whole group of people from the various arts and we really spearheaded sort of a cultural organization,” said Johnson, “and of course it was filled with musicians, visual artists, poets and singer-songwriters.”

When Johnson resigned as chairwomen in 2006, the coalition had already made significant contributions to the art community in Northport, including Happenings on Main Street, which promotes local street music and gives musical performers the ability to reach a larger audience, and Art in the Park, a free family event featuring artists displaying their photography and fine art pieces.

Down the block from Campari and Caffé Portofino is Wilkes Gallery. The gallery is a prominent fixture in the neighborhood and specializes in custom framing services and the sale of fine art. The business will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. Its long-standing relationship with fine art publishers gives its owner the opportunity to display and sell the work of renowned artists.

Wilkes employee Linda Frey, who’s starting on her 22nd year with the company, stressed the importance of supporting artists on the local level.

“You’ll come down here in the summer and different artists are set up in different corners painting,” Frey said. “Everybody promotes the locals around here as much as they can.”

In the time she’s been working at Wilkes, Frey admits that she’s seen the local art community change, but believes that Northport’s passion for the arts is still alive and well among young people.

“It seems like even the high school is very into the arts; they promote art there and they do a lot of shows there,” said Frey. “This town is just very big on the arts.”

Echoing that sentiment is Dan Paige, the current executive director of the coalition. He believes that by giving back to the community, he and his coordinators are enhancing the level of opportunity for local artists to receive recognition.

“The major thing is helping artists get their art out there, and then by doing that, we’re serving a purpose of bringing the arts to the community,” Paige said.

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