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Rocky Point Board of Education

Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr
Check back later this week for Miller Place’s proposed school budget and interviews with school board trustee candidates.

School districts throughout the North Shore of Long Island are gearing up for budget votes on May 21. Here is a round up of some of the local districts latest budget overviews and a preview of candidates who are running for board of education trustee seats.  

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai School District budget overview 

The final proposed budget figure for the 2019-20 school year will be 61,009,770, which is a 1.34 percent and $806,295 increase from the current year’s amount. 

The district is poised to receive $18,007,000 in state aid in the upcoming school year, a slight decrease than it received last year. 

Though it will receive slightly more in foundation aid for the upcoming school year in $12,909,109 compared to this year’s figure of 12,845,044, the district will be receiving less money in building state aid. The 2019-20 amount will be $1,168,106, a $489,000 decrease in funds. That’s due to a 25-year-old bond loan on the high school finally being paid off, according to Superintendent Gordan Brodsal. 

“The bond on the high school is paid off,” he said. “No more principal, no more interest. That means no more building aid from the state.”

The tax levy cap for the district in 2019-20 will be 2.168 percent and the tax levy amount is $40,986,735, a $870,000 increase from the previous year. 

The tax rate for an average assessment of a household valued at $3,700 will be $9,839. As a result, and the district said there will be a $17 increase in tax rates for the average homeowner.

For capital projects, a separate vote in conjunction with budget, the board wants to set a capital reserve of $850,000. Including the $750,000 in funds put last year in capital reserve, the district will have $1.6 million for future capital projects.

Brosdal and the board are proposing to use $1.5 million for two projects: the cost of another partial repair of the high school’s roof and to replace the middle school’s HVAC system. The high school roof repair would cost $850,000 and the HVAC replacement would cost $650,000. The remaining $100,000 would be saved for future projects. 

Other highlights of the budget are plans to make the Consultant Teacher Direct Instructor program full day for children in grades 1 through 4. To expand the program, the district would be looking to hire two additional instructors. 

Also, the budget will cover replacement of outdated textbooks in the middle and high school. The total for the new textbooks will cost the district $75,550.

Mount Sinai board of education trustee vote

This year, Mount Sinai will have five candidates running for three open trustee seats. Board member Anne Marie Henninger’s seat will come up for vote again after she replaced trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August 2018. Board member Lynn Jordan will be vying for re-election. Challengers this year are Lisa Pfeffer, Chris Quartarone and Robert Pignatello. The two candidates with the highest votes will get a three-year term while the person to receive the third most votes will take up Riggio’s vacated seat, which will have a two-year tenure instead of the usual three years for the other seats. 

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point Union Free School District budget overview 

The latest proposed budget amount for the upcoming school year will be $86,743,446, a slight increase of 0.71 percent from last year’s amount. The district will also see a projected tax levy cap of 2.59 percent and a tax levy amount of $52,491,371, which is an increase by more than $1.3 million from the current year’s figure of $51,166,218. 

The district will be receiving $28,864,295 in state aid for 2019-20, an increase of close to $130,000. Rocky Point will get $19,044,293 in foundation aid, an increase of more than $140,000 compared to last year’s figure of $18,902,525. 

Another highlight of the budget overview is that debt services will decrease in the 2019-20 school year as a result of a completion of payments of two bonds that date back to 1995 and 2000. The bond payments will expire on June 30 and will save the district $451,751. 

Superintendent Micheal Ring said the bonds expiring were approved by voters for various construction projects, including the construction of the Rocky Point Middle School. As debt service decreases, so does building aid from New York State, which is provided to offset part of the cost of bond interest and principal payments over the life of debt. 

Employees Retirement System rates will decrease to 13.1 percent, which is expected to likely save the district more than $159,000. Teachers Retirement System rates are expected to decrease as well to 9 percent and would save the district close to $582,000. 

Ring said that as rates have gone down it has resulted in opportunities to better support the district’s core instructional programs and enhance maintenance of facilities.  

Rocky Point board of education trustee vote

This year there will be two open trustee seats. 

Board member Scott Reh, who was sworn in to the board Jan. 14 to fill the seat vacated by Joseph Coniglione earlier this school year, has said he has no plans on securing re-election in May and will let other candidates run for his seat. The candidate with the most votes will serve for the three-year term. The candidate with the second highest number of votes will serve the remainder of Coniglione’s term, which is one year. The candidates this year are Susan Sullivan, Michael Lisa and Jessica Ward. 

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District budget overview

The finalized proposed budget figure for 2019-20 will be $75,952,416. It is a $1,176,344 increase from last year’s figure. 

The tax levy cap for the upcoming school year is 2.36 percent and the tax levy cap amount is $54,377,657, an increase of $1,257,442 from the current year’s amount. 

The district is expected to receive $12,676,465 in state aid for the 2019-20 school year, a decrease of over $98,000 from 2018-2019. Also, SWR will see an increase of over $48,000 in foundation state aid received with the total amount being $6,442,501. 

The fund balance for 2019-20 will decrease by close to $67,000 from 2018-19. 

The final budget will cover the implementation of an integrated video, door access and alarm management system as well as additional video cameras and perimeter fencing. Night gates will be installed at the Alfred G. Prodell Middle School, Miller Avenue Elementary School and Wading River Elementary School. Also, the budget will cover the purchase of a new high school auditorium bandshell and supplies/materials for the middle school greenhouse. 

Shoreham-Wading River board of education trustee vote

This year, SWR will have three trustee seats open.

The full terms of board members Michael Lewis and Kimberly Roff will expire June 30. Roff chose to not seek re-election. 

The third seat is for board member Erin Hunt, who resigned in March and whose term will expire June 30 as well.  

The candidates with the two highest number of votes will win the full three-year term seats.  These candidates’ term will be from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2022.

The candidate with the third highest number of votes will win Hunt’s vacated seat.  The winning candidate’s term will begin the evening of the election, May 21, and their term of office will end June 30, 2020. An election will take place in May 2020 to fill the seat for a three-year term.

The five challengers for this year are: Thomas Sheridan, Jennifer Kitchen, Meghan Tepfenhardt, Edward Granshaw and William McGrath.

 

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Rocky Point Board of Education members announce the results for the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After much anticipation, the Rocky Point Board of Education members revealed the results for the school district’s $20.4 million maintenance bond after voting took place on Monday, and the results were less than impressive.

The bond’s $17,478,513 Proposition 1 received 396 votes in opposition and 320 votes in favor. Proposition 2 was also defeated, 465 to 233 votes.

The bond aimed to target repairs and renovations to the facilities, as well as health and safety projects. Proposition 1 focused on major projects, like bathroom repairs, upkeep, or additions, like outdoor bathrooms; fixing boilers; lighting ceilings; air conditioning; and locker room renovations, among other projects. Proposition 2 dealt with what some residents perceived as minor projects. This included funding items like artificial grass.

Less than 1,000 residents went to the Rocky Point High School gymnasium and voted on the bond. Wendy Guthy, of Rocky Point, whose third child recently graduated from the high school, was one of many residents who voted against the bond.

“There are things that the community doesn’t feel is necessary based on what [the Board of Education] told us two years ago,” Guthy said.

She said the board informed residents that the institution was in good standing in 2013. Guthy also added her thoughts on some renovations she found unnecessary, like repairs to the turf on the athletic field. Other residents shared Guthy’s same opinion regarding the bond’s minor projects. Rocky Point resident Judy Stringer said the bond’s propositions had “too much fluff and too many wants…instead of needs.”

“All those extra bathrooms and turf is not needed,” Stringer said in a phone interview. “Things that should be taken care of [are] the high school bathrooms and the Frank J. Carasiti bathrooms. Those things are important and necessary for the children.”

While Guthy said no to the renovations, it is not because she wants to deprive students of the renovations, but thinks about the pressure it would put on parents’ wallets.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘No,’ to the kids,” Guthy said. “But you have to be budget-minded too.”

According to the board’s newsletter regarding the bond, the state would have funded the majority of the bond, which requires taxpayer dollars. Despite this, the board’s newsletter claimed that Rocky Point taxpayers would pay less than $8 monthly to fund the propositions. Residents would have experienced a total tax impact of $92.35 if the bond was passed. Even if Proposition 2 passed, the approval of the entire bond would depend on whether the first proposition passed.

One resident, who did not want to give her name directly after voting, said she felt bad voting in opposition of the bond but she “wanted to send a message, that [the Rocky Point Board of Education]…shouldn’t tack on those extra things.” While this resident admitted that a new heating system was in order among other necessities, she said minor projects deterred her from voting for the bill. At the time, she believed the bond would pass.

During the Aug. 31 Board of Education meeting, some individuals from the New York State United Teachers School Related Professionals Association gathered to voice their opinions regarding teaching assistants versus teaching aides, and added that they would not vote in favor of the bond if the board were to eliminate teaching aide positions. Jessica Ward’s position as a teaching aide was eliminated during that meeting.

Many of these individuals attended the Monday meeting.

Rocky Point BOE President Susan Sullivan said the board tried to address the needs of the school and was disappointed with Monday night’s results on the bond.

“As elected representatives of our community, the Board of Education worked to present a bond that struck a balance between the infrastructural needs of our buildings and repairs that would preserve the integrity of our schools in a financially responsible manner,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is disappointing that the proposal presented did not garner the support of our community. We are committed to continuing to provide our students and staff with a safe and secure learning environment and will work together with our community to discuss ways to properly support our educational facilities.”

Despite the results, Superintendent of Schools for Rocky Point school district, Michael Ring, still appreciated residents’ participation with the bond.

“The district thanks the public for their participation in the bond vote,” Ring said in an email. “Moving forward, the district will continue to review its facilities’ needs in order to determine actions that may be necessary to sustain the integrity and maintenance of our buildings and grounds.”