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Commack Union Free School District

Commack school district residents passed the $205,126,576 budget, 1,981-620.

Challenger Gustave Hueber beat incumbent Jarrett Behar. Hueber received 1,465 votes, while Behar garnered 1,085.

Comsewogue School District

Comsewogue residents passed the $98,479,289 budget, 643-203.

Margaret Mitchell (699), Richard Rennard (695) and Corey Prinz (670) ran unopposed.

Elwood Union Free School District

Elwood school district residents passed the 2021-22 budget of $66,913,579.

Yes – 1,294

No – 481

Incumbents James Tomeo and Heather Mammolito won back their seats on the board with 1,056 votes and 940, respectively. Bryan Johnson received 709 and Amy Kern 758.

Harborfields Central School District

The 2021-22 Harborfields school district budget of $90,316,264 passed.

Yes – 1,422

No – 346

Susan Broderick with 1,012 votes, incumbent Suzie Lustig with 1,019 and Eve Meltzer Krief with 963, won seats on the board of ed. Incumbent Joseph Savaglio received 601 votes, Freda Manuel had 342 and incumbent Steven Engelmann 812.

Hauppauge Union Free School District

The $119,963,719 Hauppauge school district 2021-22 budget was approved.

Yes – 1,154

No – 415

A resolution to repair the Forest Brook Elementary School roof at a cost of $675,000 was adopted, 1,291-270.

Gemma Salvia and Colleen Capece won the two seats on the board, with 767 and 883 votes, respectively. Incumbent Michael Buscarino received 735 and Megan Asseng 585.

Huntington Union Free School District

The $139,315,854 2021-22 school budget in the Huntington school district passed, 993-250.

Residents reelected Christine Biernacki to the board of ed with 914 votes and newcomers Theresa Sullivan and Thomas Galvin received 856 and 786 votes, respectively, to win seats on the board. Incumbent Lynda Tiné-D’Anna lost her seat with 721 votes.

Kings Park Central School District

The Kings Park school district budget of $98,054,941 passed.

Yes – 1,458

No – 642

Incumbents Kevin Johnston and Diane Nally retained their seats with 1,169 and 1,102 votes, respectively. Challengers Cynthia Grimley and Clayton Cobb received 962 and 826, respectively.

Johnston in an email said he was pleased that he and Nally were reelected, “especially after a contentious campaign.”

“Most important was the passing of the budget,” he said. “Diane and I are proud of the accomplishments Kings Park Central School District has made, over the past six years, including lowering class sizes to more manageable levels; adding school psychologists and social workers; having a graduation rate of 99%, with 94% of students opting for post-graduation education; and the return of students, during the COVID pandemic, in a safe and responsible manner. Together, Diane Nally and I look forward to overcoming the financial and educational challenges in the next three years. Finally, we are cognizant of the community’s ability to finance the students’ education, as we kept the [tax cap levy] below 2%.”

Middle Country Central School District

Middle Country residents passed the $269,080,958 budget 1,758-643.

“On behalf of the Middle Country Central School District Board of Education, administration, teachers and staff, I would like to thank our community for their passage of our 2021-2022 school district budget,” said Roberta Gerold, superintendent of schools. “The community’s continued support reinforces our students’ efforts and is a direct reflection of the community’s confidence in the quality of education in our district and the programs and services we provide that ensure the needs of all our students and families are met and exceeded.”

Karen J. Lessler (1,914) and Arlene Barresi (1,893) ran unopposed. John DeBenedetto (1,197) defeated Robert Hallock (779) and Mario Nicoletto (290); Deborah Mann-Rodriguez (929) defeated William Ferraro (879) and Sandro Fernandes (498) for the two-year term remaining on the seat of Dina Phillips, who resigned in the fall and was replaced by Ferraro.

Miller Place Union Free School District

Miller Place residents passed the $76,520,451 budget, 903-257.

Bryan Makarius (609) defeated Desiree O’Neil (490).

Mount Sinai School District

Mount Sinai residents passed the $62,581,830 budget, 656-191.

Karen Pitka (678) and Paul Staudt (665) ran unopposed.

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

The Northport-East Northport school district 2021-22 budget of $174,704,748 did not pass.

Yes – 1,902

No – 2,069

Incumbent Victoria Buscareno, 2,126 votes, retained her seat on the board and Carol Taylor won the second open seat with 2,079 votes. Warner Frey received 1,356 votes and Tammie Topel garnered 1,534.

Port Jefferson School District

Port Jefferson residents passed the $45,009,729 budget, 579-120.

“The district is extremely grateful to our Port Jefferson community for their continued support of our schools,” said Jessica Schmettan, superintendent of schools. “With the approval of last night’s budget vote, we are poised to further our tradition of academic excellence and ensure our students are prepared for future success.”

Tracy Zamek (473), Ryan Walker (456) and Rene Tidwell (408) defeated Shannon Handley (384).

Rocky Point Union Free School District 

Rocky Point residents passed the $85,692,726 budget, 477-124.

Ed Casswell (472) and Michael Lisa (463) ran unopposed.

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Shoreham-Wading River residents passed the $80,687,584 budget, 669-215.

“We are again pleased that we are part of a community that wholeheartedly supports our students and school district,” said Gerard Poole, superintendent of schools. “Our longstanding tradition of students’ academic, artistic and athletic success is reflected in our community’s expectations and moving forward with this approved budget enables us to continue with Shoreham-Wading River’s mission and goals while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbents Robert Rose (689) and James Smith (670) ran unopposed.

Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown school district residents approved the budget of $262,319,665.

Yes – 5,180

No – 3,245

The incumbents Jeremy Thode, Charles Rollins and Mandy Kowalik were voted off the board as residents chose challengers John Savoretti, Karen Wontrobski-Rollins and Stacy Murphy for the three seats up for grab.

Seat of Charles Rollins:

Charles Rollins – 3,868 votes

John Savoretti – 4,645 votes

Seat of Jeremy Thode:

Jeremy Thode – 4,000 votes

Karen Wontrobski-Ricciardi – 4,504 votes

Seat of Mandi Kowalik:

Mandi Kowalik – 3,854 votes

Stacy Murphy – 4,651 votes

The 2020-21 school year began with a tumultuous start for the Smithtown school district when local parents rallied in front of the administration building before various board of education meetings demanding schools to be opened five days a week for in-person learning during the pandemic. The charge was led by the Facebook group Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group, which was founded by Murphy, a guidance counselor in the Amityville school district.

In an email Thode said the “community support of the budget” was the number one priority.

“This was a highly contested election that sparked a great deal of dialogue,” Thode said. “Conversation is good. Community engagement is good. I hope they both continue.”

Thode said he believes he made positive contributions during his two terms on the board.

“I have learned that we have great students, staff and families,” he added. “The district is in great hands. We have excellent schools and a passionate community. I congratulate the new BOE members and wish them well. Ultimately, the community wants what is best for children. I am sure this new BOE will unite in that goal. I look forward to watching our children thrive.”

Savoretti, Wontrobski-Ricciardi and Murphy emailed a joint statement the day after their victory.

“We stepped up to the challenge to run for Smithtown Board of Education to make a positive change for our kids and their parents, many who have felt voiceless, unhappy with the current situation in our schools and frustrated with the lack of response to our concerns,” the winners said. “In addition, we firmly believe that our children and youth should be provided a quality education where they are only taught how to think, as opposed to what to think.”

The three acknowledged stumbling blocks along the way despite the support they received from parents in the district. Their campaign page on Facebook had nearly 900 followers.

“Although this campaign was a very positive movement, we were faced with divisive and hurtful tactics by many who disagreed with or assumed we stood for something very different,” they said. “Many false stories spread about us related to ideologies we did not embrace.”

Savoretti, Wontrobski-Ricciardi and Murphy added, “Moving forward, we choose to be leaders in healing this community. We look forward to working with the existing board members and extending our hands to find common ground, prioritizing the needs of every student. At the end of the day, that’s why we got involved … for the children of this community and future generations to come.”

Three Village Central School District

In Three Village school district, the $222.6 million budget did not pass as 60% approval was needed to approve the budget that pierced the 1.37% cap with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.85%.

Yes – 2,286 (57.68%)

No – 1,677

Deanna Bavlnka retained her seat on the board with 2,076 votes, while Sue Rosenzweig and Shaorui Li won the other two open seats with 2,202 and 2,326 votes respectively.

David McKinnon received 1,917 votes and Karen Roughly 1,754.

Bavlnka, Li and Rosenzweig campaigned together. Bavlnka is a corporate director of human resources. Shaorui Li is a principal engineer and research group manager at a national laboratory as well as an adjunct faculty member at Stony Brook University, while Rosenzweig is a former anchor at News 12.

Li ran last year unsuccessfully.

“I’m very proud of our Three Village community with so many people dedicated to supporting high-quality public education,” Li said. “Together we will assist our young generation toward a brighter future.”

Additional reporting by Julianne Mosher

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For the 10th straight year, the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District budget is under the tax levy.

According to the district’s newsletter, the 2021-22 budget will increase by 1.13 percent and has a tax levy increase of 0.75%. The savings is due to school reorganizations, which includes the Aug. 31 closings of Bellerose Avenue and Dickinson Avenue elementary schools.

Residents will also vote on two propositions. Proposition 2 is to establish a capital reserve fund not to exceed $20 million over a 10-year period. If the proposition is approved, there will be no tax implications. Proposition 3 will be to vote on altering the transportation boundaries. If approved, students in grades 6-8 will be able to take the bus if they live within a 0.75-mile limit as opposed to the current 1-mile limit. The boundary limits for grades 9-12 will change from the current 1.5-mile limit to a new 1.0-mile limit.

In the race for two open trustee seats on the board of ed, four candidates are running. The candidates shared information in biographies in the district newsletter that is also found on its website.

Victoria Buscareno

Victoria Buscareno

Incumbent and Syosset school district special education teacher, Buscareno has lived in the district for 46 years and has four children, three in college who graduated from the high school and one child in Northport Middle School.

In addition to attending board meetings regularly, she also attends PTA evening meetings and the Drug and Alcohol Task Force meetings. She also is a member of the Ocean Avenue, NMS, NHS PTA and SEPTA and sat on the NMS subcommittee and is currently the co-chair of the Audit Committee.

Buscareno said being a board member for the past three years and being an educator is an asset.

“The greatest asset an individual can bring as a board member is compassion, kindness and the ability to work with others to come to a consensus on the best possible decision,” she said. “Listening to different perspectives and allowing movement and growth is what allows a board to work together to make important decisions for all of our community.”

Regarding school closings, she lists them among the most pertinent issues facing the Northport-East Northport School District. She also wants to maintain strong dialogue with the community.

“We are looking to maximize our buildings’ usage while providing enhancements for our students in a cost-effective way,” she said. “Maintaining our buildings and making sure every space is well taken care of and safe for all children will always be a priority. School safety is essential. We must be prepared and well trained for any emergency situation.”

Buscareno said the district like many others is revisiting policies to ensure they are inclusive to all students.

Warner Frey

Warner Frey

A 50-year resident, Frey has three children in district schools. He was a coach with the Northport Youth Center Soccer from 2013-17 and a den leader with BSA Pack 400 East Northport from 2015-22. He’s also a team manager for Northport Cow Harbor United and from 2011-21 has served as a member of Dickinson Avenue PTA.

The retired NYPD captain believes his work experience will be an asset to the board.

“I served 23 years in the NYPD which taught me the value of critical thinking, diversity and problem-solving unforeseen challenges,” he said. “As a captain, I led people and formed relationships with community leaders and elected officials to achieve goals.”

If elected, Frey said he aims to create “policy that strives to maximize the talents of all students through inclusion.” He also aims to work on budgets that will enhance current district programs while being affordable to taxpayers.

The candidate said it may not be necessary to have as many brick-and-mortar assets currently and it’s important to reinvent building usage.

“The current review of building usage is an important undertaking,” he said. “As this community evolves, we must assess ways to achieve cost savings while continuing to enhance our student programs. We must be open to new ideas and solutions to achieve cost savings while growing our curriculum.”

Carol Taylor

Carol Taylor

A resident in the district for approximately 20 years, Taylor is planning to retire as a Northport-East Northport teacher next month. Her two daughters are graduates. She was a volunteer for the district’s Steering Committee and has served on several instructional committees. In addition, she has been in leadership with the United Teachers of Northport, a New York State United Teachers delegate and a New York State Teachers Retirement System delegate.

“I’m a problem-solver with an open mind,” she said. “I take little at face value. Rather, I listen and then research. I’m candid and put the needs of my students and their families first. I am unafraid of discourse and will continue to work tirelessly for our families as I have done for the 20 years I’ve worked for our wonderful district.”

In addition to the two elementary schools closing, Taylor said another issue the district faces is “the reality of the LIPA lawsuit with a settlement.” She would also like to see the district hold “councils” instead of having committees. Taylor said she feels that while committees have selfless volunteers, in the end, the decisions still rely on administration.

“Perhaps a policy could be crafted to return to the prior practice to promote earnest collaboration,” Taylor said. “It is becoming increasingly challenging to provide the quality of education that the Northport community expects, given increasing costs and the 2% tax cap limiting the ability to raise local revenue.”

She also said there should be a pause in excess spending with homeowners struggling to make ends meet, and with the LIPA and COVID-19 economic fallout.

Tammie Topel

Tammie Topel

A nearly 30-year resident of the Northport-East Northport area, Topel is a special education advocate and founder/director of K.I.D.S. Plus, which provides sports programs and therapeutic recreation programs for children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Both of her children have attended schools in the district, even though her son with autism did receive a high school education outside of the district.

Topel has been outspoken about the closing of the two elementary schools and she said she’s not afraid to speak up.

“My beliefs are my own which I develop after listening to all sides, especially the community that placed me on the board,” she said. “I do not waiver in the face of bullying, smearing and grandstanding.”

Topel has also been a Northport Rotary Club member and in 2010 was honored in the Times of Northport and East Northport as Women of the Year. She is involved in various community organizations including Drug and Alcohol Task Force member, founder/administrator of Just For Kicks Soccer Club, chairperson for the Northport Youth Soccer League, past PTA president of Norwood Avenue Elementary School, past special education chairperson for Suffolk Region PTA and past SEPTA president.

Topel lists the closings of the elementary schools and the raising of the budget among the top of her concerns as well as transparency from the superintendent and BOE. She also seeks for community communications to be made part of the public record.

“The board and the superintendent could be more transparent and should effectively communicate with the community, before, during and after meetings,” she said. “During public participation at a board meeting, board members should answer questions asked of them by the community.”

Voting information

The budget vote and board of education trustees election will take place Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are three voting locations in the Northport school district. Those living south of the centerline of Pulaski Road vote at Fifth Avenue Elementary School; residents living north of the centerline of Pulaski Road and south of the centerline of Route 25A vote at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School; and voters who live north of the center of Route 25A vote at William J. Brosnan School.

Huntington High School. File photo

Residents in the Huntington school district will be able to choose from four candidates for three seats on the board of education.

Incumbents Christine Biernacki and Lynda Tine-D’Anna will go up against newcomers Thomas Galvin and Theresa Sullivan, according to the district’s website.

Christine Biernacki

Biernacki is completing her second three-year term on the board and was elected by her fellow trustees to serve as board president for the 2020-21 school year. She and her husband live in Halesite with their two children who are in high school.

A partner in a New York City law firm, in addition to her duties with the BOE, she is president of the district’s PTA council and has served on the Safety and Shared Decision Making committees and on the Special Education Committee.

She has served as president of both the Town of Huntington’s Youth Bureau board and of the Huntington Sanctuary Project’s advisory board and has offered her house as a host home for the project’s runaway youth.

Lynda Tine-D’Anna

Lynda Tine-D’Anna

A lifelong resident of Huntington, Tine-D’Anna is completing her first term on the school board.

She and her husband have two children who attend district schools, and two daughters attending college.

The candidate is a world language teacher in the Syosset school district and is a member of the high school steering committee for the National Blue Ribbon schools of excellence application process, chair of the district’s Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation and evaluation committee and is a founding member of the high school’s professional development program.

She has also been a board member and volunteer of the Huntington school district Special Education PTA, and is the founding member and former president of a local nonprofit focused on advocacy and education.

Thomas Galvin

Thomas Galvin

Galvin and his wife, who graduated from Huntington High School, moved from New York City to Huntington nearly 20 years ago. They have two children attending school in the district.

The candidate is New Hyde Park Memorial High School’s social studies chairperson and a representative on his district’s diversity task force. He also has coached soccer at the YMCA and the Cold Spring Harbor-Huntington Soccer Club and helped create the high school’s Model U.N. program. In his free time, he performs in a band.



Theresa Sullivan

Theresa Sullivan

A 1992 graduate of Huntington High School, Sullivan works at her family’s Huntington village salon and was recently appointed to the town’s small business task force. She and her husband have two daughters in the district.

She created Huntington Hospital Meals during the pandemic, and her work was recognized by town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in the TBR News Media May 2020 article, “Who local leaders are thankful for helping during pandemic.” The initiative helped deliver thousands of meals for medical professionals and staff at the hospital during the initial weeks of the pandemic and also raised more than $150,000.

Budget and voting information

According to the Huntington school district’s website, the estimated tax levy increase for the 2021-22 budget is 0.33 percent, with a budget increase of 2.48% to $139,315,854.  The district will receive state aid of $22,166,741, according to the district’s projections.

Residents will also have the opportunity to vote on a capital reserve proposition. If the proposition receives approval, it will permit funding for an estimated $3.525 million in projects and will have no effect on taxes.

Projects include partial roofing replacement at Huntington High School, parking lot renovations at J. Taylor Finley Middle School and the replacement of two original building boilers at Jefferson Primary School.

The budget vote and BOE elections will take place May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Huntington High School located at 188 Oakwood Road.

Kings Park High School. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Kings Park board of education race has four candidates vying for two seats at large. Incumbents Diane Nally and Kevin Johnston will be on the ballot May 18 along with newcomers Clayton Cobb and Cynthia Grimley.

Both Cobb and Grimley were inspired to run after they and other parents were discontented with the reopening process in September as Kings Park secondary school students returned to the classrooms five days a week in person later than younger children. While the school year began with a hybrid model, with students attending school two days a week and taking classes remotely the others, the return to buildings the entire week for middle and high school students didn’t occur until a few weeks ago.

All candidates agree that an upcoming summer program in the district will be beneficial to ensure that students have an opportunity to fill in any learning gaps or deal with any emotional or social problems caused by the pandemic.

Clayton Cobb

Clayton Cobb

Cobb has lived in the district for more than eight years. He and his wife have three children who were homeschooled temporarily during the pandemic but will be returning to the classrooms in September. The vice president of an information technology consulting firm said that before the schools were shut down in March of 2020, he wasn’t familiar with BOE dealings, and then he started paying attention.

He said he believes that his IT experience can help in providing new solutions, and his business experience would also be an asset to a board position.

He said the district’s response during the shutdowns and the return to the classrooms wasn’t handled properly. It wasn’t until parents pushed back after a survey was sent out and parents rallied that the BOE took them seriously. Cobb said the board members weren’t tenacious enough with getting all students back to school full time in person. He added he felt they should have studied and researched the data more.

“You have to be forward thinking, proactive,” Cobb said. “You have to do research. You have to look at other counties, look at other states, look at the districts in other counties. You assemble, gather and assimilate information and come up with a solution and keep fighting for it.”

Cobb added that it’s important in cases such as this to bring up any legal aspects and harmfulness to the students even to state and county officials.

He said he felt at times the board was too quick to dismiss new ideas, and with his business background he said he understands how taxpayers are the same to the district as a customer is to a business.

“The whole point of this board and the school district is us,” he said.

Cynthia Grimley

Cynthia Grimley

A Kings Park resident since 1988, Grimley graduated from Kings Park High School and is raising her two daughters in the district.

Grimley holds a degree in psychology and education. She started her career as a special education teacher for six years and then moved on to higher education in 2003 where she worked at Suffolk County Community College. She is currently employed at Stony Brook University where she is a testing coordinator for the Student Accessibility Support Center.

While Grimley said she thought about running for the board of education before, she never felt a need to do so until now.

“I just feel that this year was difficult for everybody,” Grimley said.

She added that because she works at SBU she saw how another educational institution proceeded after the pandemic forced shutdowns. According to Grimley early on in March 2020, SBU leadership found a way to connect with students, even though she said higher education systems are different, she said she felt there should have been more connection with the students in Kings Park by teachers.

Her older daughter went a long time after the shutdown before hearing from teachers, and Grimley said she addressed her concerns about both daughters’ education to the BOE members, even though she said she was understanding that the district wasn’t prepared to teach via Zoom

“I kept going to board meetings and I said, ‘Why is this OK with anybody?’” Grimley said.  “Why is this OK with the principals, with the administration, with the board, that there are children who haven’t had any connection with their teachers for weeks?”

Over the summer she became part of the reopening committee. She said she was vocal about there being a return to five full days and also a remote option. She said she felt not much changed in the new school year with sixth- through 12th-graders still following a hybrid model, and it was frustrating to see other schools returning full time early on. She added many on the board don’t currently have children in school.

“I just think that the board members didn’t have kids in the schools and didn’t realize,” she said. “We saw the kids suffering — the parents who have children — and saw the kids. The second my kids went back to school full time, it was like two new kids. It was like a light switch, both of them.”

Working in higher education in disability services, Grimley said she knows it’s hard to compare the two, but she feels her work experience, especially working with special-needs students, can be an asset to the board.

“I have a lot of background about accessibility, making education accessible for all and universal design and that sort of thing, so I feel like I bring a unique perspective to the board,” she said.

Kevin Johnston

Kevin Johnston

A resident of the hamlet for nearly 35 years, Johnston’s two children graduated from Kings Park High School in 2007 and 2010. The student-teacher supervisor with SUNY Oneonta has a background in education including being a former teacher, coach and adviser in the Kings Park school district from 1981-2015.

Johnston is completing his second term on the board. With issues due to the pandemic, he said it was important to run again due to financial constraints with the district possibly not getting state funding this year.

Johnston said one thing that will help financially is that the district just received money from winning a lawsuit from a case which was going on for nearly 10 years.

“We feel we have a lot to do, especially concerning loss of learning and the mental, social, emotional needs,” Johnston said.

He added in addition to a program implemented for this summer to deal with loss of learning, next year it’s important to look at more staffing for academic intervention and for standard social, emotional needs.

He said the district has to make every penny count as they don’t have chair people, and don’t have a level of checks and balances that other school districts with bigger budgets have.

“So, we do scrutinize the entire budget process, very carefully,” he said. “Make sure that there is no fluff.”

He said recently an opponent asked what are the wants versus the needs of the district.

“We’re just trying to meet the needs of the students,” he said. “We don’t have an agenda. We don’t have a special list of wants or wish list.”

Diane Nally

Diane Nally

The current board president has lived in Kings Park for more than 60 years. In addition to her three children being graduates of the high school, she has a grandchild starting kindergarten soon.

In 2016, Nally retired as assistant director of religion education at St. Joseph’s. If reelected, this will be Nally’s fourth term on the board, and she said she would like “to continue to improve the school district and maintain the progress we have achieved over the last nine years.”

Regarding the full return to school, she said the board acted accordingly saying the timing was “spot on” due to the decreasing number of COVID cases. She said a plan has been introduced to address learning loss and social emotional learning. The program will begin this summer.

“Our current school board acted responsibly by ensuring that the health and safety of all our students and staff were our number one priority,” she said. “We continually sought updated guidance for bringing all students back to school five days a week, which we did last month.”

Nally said her more-than-25 years with St. Joseph’s provide her with valuable experience working with parents and children to resolve issues. Her nine years on the board she said has enabled her to form relationships “with members of other school boards and with members of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.”

Nally said she is an advocate for small class sizes. She said this made it possible to bring grades K-5 back to school five days a week in the beginning of the school year. In September 2019, a one-to-one device program was introduced in the district. It was originally expected to take a few years before middle and high school students had devices.

“In response to the COVID pandemic, the board, superintendent, administrators, teachers and staff worked collaboratively to accomplish this goal by September 2020, which made it possible to run our hybrid and remote learning platforms,” she said. “With the increased state aid we received, we were able to set a tax levy of 1.99%, the lowest in years, while maintaining all current curriculum, programs and activities. As a responsible school board member, I am always mindful of the impact of tax increases on our community.”

Budget and voting information

Kings Park School District residents will vote on a 1.60% budget increase and 1.99% tax levy increase for the 2021-22 school year.

The budget vote and trustee election will be held Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Kings Park High School back gymnasium, 200 Route 25A, Kings Park.2021-

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village Central School District residents will vote on the 2021-22 budget and select three school board trustees when they head to the polls next Tuesday, May 18.

Next year’s $222.6 million budget requires supermajority approval since it exceeds the 1.37% cap on the tax levy increase. Deputy superintendent, Jeff Carlson, has said that opening schools five days a week to all students cost the district about $6.5 million this year. Speaking at the most recent school board meeting May 5, he explained that with most of the money coming from reserves, the district has to pay itself back while also keeping current safety protocols in place for the upcoming school year.

At a previous meeting, Carlson said the 1.85% tax levy increase will generate close to an additional $800,000, roughly the amount the district will use to pay back its reserves. The average increase to taxpayers is $222 a year — about $58 more than they would pay per year under a 1.37% levy increase. State aid will increase by $1.8 million in the coming year, but because the current year’s aid package was less than the previous year, the net gain will only be about $200,000, Carlson said.

The district has budgeted for the restoration of health education for kindergarten through third grade, math labs at the high school and electives in the secondary schools. That will mean the addition of three full-time health teachers and an additional math teacher at $90,000 (including benefits) for a total of $360,000. In an email, Carlson said the cost will be covered through savings from retirements.

The district will also add a social worker for the elementary schools, an elementary chair to manage 504 programs, which provide support for students who need learning accommodations, and a music technology teacher. Carlson said each position is budgeted at $90,000 with benefits and will cost about $270,000.

If the proposed budget doesn’t pass, the district can either put the same budget up for a second vote, present a revised budget for vote or go straight to a contingency budget. A contingency budget would mean no increase to the tax levy and would require the district to cut $3 million, Carlson said. A failed second vote would also result in a contingency budget.

COVID safety protocols

During the public participation portion of this week’s board meeting, a group of parents spoke of being concerned about the “negative social, emotional and academic effects” of plexiglass barriers that have been erected as part of COVID-19 protocols on the desks of elementary students. They demanded that they be taken down “immediately.”

Members of the group said that since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends the barriers and district secondary students weren’t using them, the district was “keeping the most severe district protocol in place for the least vulnerable students.” They called the protocol “unacceptable.” Some also declared the use of masks and barriers “redundant.”

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich explained that elementary students eat at their desks, while secondary students do not.

“I hear the emotion, and it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

She also said the district had tried hard to “create as normal an opportunity” as possible for students, and that the district’s “layered approach” was part of its effort to keep students in school and keep everyone “safe and healthy.”

Pedisich said she also hears from parents “who feel very differently” and want the safety measures in place until the end of the year.

The superintendent acknowledged that “COVID fatigue is real,” but said that after speaking with the school governance committee and other superintendents, the prevailing sentiment is to “stay the course until the end of the year.”

“I don’t want to make imprudent decisions that in any way would jeopardize the health and safety of our students, and I think the board feels the same way,” Pedisich said.

The vote

The vote for the budget and school board trustees will take place Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the district’s secondary schools, P.J. Gelinas and R.C. Murphy junior highs and Ward Melville High School.  Candidates for three trustee positions are David McKinnon, Sue Rosenzweig, Shaorui Li, Karen Roughley and Deanna Bavlnka.

See tbrnewsmedia.com for last week’s article about the candidates.

Families rallied in August asking the Smithtown Central School District to consider five days of in-person schooling for all of the district’s students. Photo by Lina Weingarten
Stacy Murphy

The 2020-21 school year began with a tumultuous start for the Smithtown Central School District when local parents rallied in front of the administration building before various board of education meetings demanding schools to be opened five days a week for in-person learning during the pandemic. The charge was led by the Facebook group Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group, which was founded by Stacy Murphy, a guidance counselor in the Amityville school district.

Now Murphy along with educator Karen Ricciardi and real estate agent John Savoretti will go head-to-head with BOE incumbents Jeremy Thode, Mandi Kowalik and Charles Rollins. Voters on May 18 will have the opportunity to vote for Murphy or Kowalik, Savoretti or Rollins and Ricciardi or Thode.

The challengers

Savoretti, Murphy and Ricciardi did not return requests to schedule interviews but created a Facebook page where they share their common goals via posts and a video.

Karen Ricciardi

Murphy said in the video she enjoys helping others.

“I love helping kids, and I love being a voice for their families and helping them navigate a very confusing educational system if you don’t have any role in it,” she said. “And, I want that for this community.”

According to the candidates, they want to raise the bar of the education received in the district and “to ensure that the education our K-12 kids are receiving is void of any one group’s agenda, affiliation, belief system or persuasion; and to encourage and provide every student with the tools to be bold enough to exhibit qualities of compassion, kindness and good citizenship to all.”

In the video, Ricciardi said looking out for students was important.

“What’s that old expression?” she said. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Well, this is what’s going on in Smithtown. They’re wasting these amazing resources with these kids.”

The candidates also have stated on their page that being fiscally responsible is a priority and that the needs of the students are part of every budget decision.

“Ensuring the community that every vote in favor of a budget item is an investment in our children by building a trust with the community that we will be board members who do not put our own agendas, beliefs and needs — or the agendas, needs or beliefs of any other organization — above that of the needs of the Smithtown student body.”

John Savoretti

The three newcomers are also looking for more dialogue between the board and the community.

“Our goal is that we will have a school board of seven members who have absolutely no obligation or indebtedness to any group(s) that could jeopardize their ability to unequivocally put the needs of the students at the utmost forefront of each and every decision,” the candidates wrote.

In the video, Savoretti explained why the three decided to run together.

“Having one person change is a start, but when you have all three of us change, that’s a running start,” he said. “And what you’re doing is you’re sending a serious message to the other candidates who are in there, who are going to be coming up for election next year and the years after, that if you don’t wake up and start doing right by the kids and what’s right for the community, you’re not going to be there again.”

The incumbents:

Mandi Kowalik

Mandi Kowalik

Kowalik is seeking her second term. A mother of three, she is a former elementary school teacher, author and community volunteer. In an email, she said she enjoys the challenging work of being a BOE trustee.

“I am extremely passionate, dedicated, professional and hardworking,” she said. “There was a definite learning curve during my first term, and I now feel even more equipped to address the needs of the Smithtown community. I would like to assess the needs of the community and the wants of the students regarding the time that was lost during the pandemic, and then work to ensure that we make up for what children and families feel like they missed out on.”

She said she felt the board made the right decision by not opening up all schools in the district right away for five days of in-person learning, saying they followed state guidance for the safety and health of “our students, their families, our staff and the community.”

Kowalik added that the Smithtown school district was one of a few that were back to full-time, in-person learning.

Jeremy Thode

Jeremy Thode

Thode, an associate high school principal, director of health, physical education, business, fine and applied arts and athletics in Center Moriches, is completing his second term as trustee. He agreed that the board did the right thing regarding opening schools in phases. He said the board has more work to do, especially with getting back to normal after the shutdowns. He added having experience with working through the pandemic is a benefit.

He said there were a myriad of reasons regarding school reopenings, and he agreed the board did the right thing following a hybrid model considering state guidelines and also followed the research that was available about the coronavirus.

“We chose to stay on the conservative side, and ensure that our kids were safe,” he said. “The number one priority was keeping the students safe, and the community as safe as possible.”

Among other concerns in the district, Thode said once school returns to normal it would be beneficial to look at the empty buildings in the district, which he said could potentially be utilized by local businesses or nonprofits and lead to students getting internships.

“It would be nice to use them as a hub for resources for the community that our kids might be able to get intertwined with,” he said.

Charles Rollins

Rollins, was appointed by the board and replaced Frank James, who stepped down in January. Rollins’ three children graduated from Smithtown schools, and he is a retired senior executive. He or Savoretti will complete the last two years of James’ term.

Charles Rollins

Involved in the community, he has served as president of the Smithtown Booster Club in the past and is currently its treasurer. He most recently served as senior vice president of operations for First Industrial Realty Trust until his retirement a few years ago.

With a background in business, he feels he has something to offer the board, and he has been working on a capital improvement plan with administration, which is considering taking out a bond in the next few months. Rollins said now is a good time with low interest rates.

“We will be communicating with our constituency to let them know what the plans are,” he said.

Rollins added that the $120 million capital improvement plan will include infrastructure as well as cosmetic improvements, which will include ventilation system work to respond to COVID concerns. 

While he wasn’t part of the original plan to reopen schools, he believes the board and administration did the right thing by opening schools up slowly and said he has high praise for his colleagues, adding they made decisions based on “the science and the numbers, and the direction and guidance from health providers.”

Rollins said he is the president of the homeowners association where he has a house in Florida for vacations. He said he had to make similar decisions to help keep residents safe. The candidate said while some of those decisions weren’t popular, he had to put everyone’s health first. When he heard the Smithtown board was being criticized, he knew what they were going through.

“In my heart, I knew they were doing the right thing,” he said.

Recently the district received criticism for its inclusion, diversity and equity education. In a district letter to parents, the administration said such work has been deemed a priority for many educational organizations.

Rollins said the goal of making sure every student feels welcomed and comfortable is an important one. He added he has heard many passionate speeches from community members at board meetings, and he feels the goal can be achieved with conversations between parents and the board and administration.

Budget and vote

According to the district’s website, the 2021-22 budget of $262,319,665 is an increase of 2.79% over last year’s budget, which is a 1.75% tax levy increase.

Budget voting and board of ed trustees elections will be held Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information on voting locations for the four election districts, visit the SCSD website at www.smithtown.k12.ny.us.

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Ward Melville High School. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Andrea Paldy

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was preparing to release its recommendations for the nation’s schools to safely reopen, the focus of the Three Village school board meeting Feb. 10 was on sustaining its in-person learning. Seating was limited in accordance with current distancing guidelines.

Even as parents and students expressed gratitude for the district’s September in-person reopening, there was general acknowledgment of the emotional and financial challenges associated with opening schools every day in the middle of a pandemic.

“It costs a lot of money but the message we had gotten going back to last summer was, ‘Do what you need to do to get our kids back to school and do it safely.’ And we’ve done that,” said Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services.

But there is a continuing cost. Carlson prepared residents for a 2021-22 budget that would pierce the cap on the tax levy increase. He said Three Village spent about $6.5 million in COVID-related expenses to support last fall’s reopening to all students who wanted to return in-person every day. The school district also provided fully remote instruction to students whose families requested it.

More than $4 million went to hiring more teachers to decrease class sizes so that classrooms would be less crowded, and students could maintain a distance of 6 feet, the deputy superintendent said. The attention to social distancing also meant that as the school year progressed, the New York State Department of Health did not require entire classes to quarantine when someone contracted the virus.

Funds also went toward paying for masks, janitorial staff, cleaning supplies, Chromebooks and desk barriers, Carlson said.

Next year’s budget anticipates similar costs to keep the same protections in place. Though the increase to the budget would be below 2 percent — 1.85 percent — it would exceed the district’s tax cap of 1.37 percent, Carlson said.

The deputy superintendent said the district was able to cover the expenses this year, in part, because Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill allowing school districts and local governments to transfer money from their reserve funds to their operating budgets to pay for pandemic-related expenses. He added that Three Village will have spent between $4 million and $5 million from its reserves, and in compliance with the bill will need to pay back the funds within five years.

In the coming year, the governor’s preliminary budget shows a small decrease in aid to the district.  Additionally, Three Village will begin repaying about $800,000 to its reserves. Carlson said that these pandemic-related expenses, along with the usual increases in health insurance and employee retirement funds, also contractual increases, will make it impossible to put together a budget that stays within the cap.

Since the budget will be above the tax cap, it will need a supermajority — a vote of 60 percent in favor — to pass. The last time the district exceeded the cap was in 2012, the first year such caps were put in place. At that time, $1.95 million in cuts had to be made, because the budget was not approved by a supermajority.

“It’s a different time,” Carlson said of the upcoming budget. “We want to keep schools open. If not for COVID, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.”

Student life

At the same time that parents and students thanked the district for a full reopening, they also voiced frustration about some of the losses in the past year.

Speaking to the board about allowing spectators at sporting events, one parent noted that too much has already been taken away from students.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich assured parents that they have the support of the school district, which has registered a vote with Section XI in favor of allowing spectators at sporting events.

And while “school in person was a huge win,” said Jesse Behar, a Ward Melville senior and student representative to the school board, seniors are looking at lost milestones such as homecoming and Senior Day. They are also concerned about whether there will be a prom or “any modified in-person events,” as well as celebrations for students moving up from the sixth and ninth grades, Behar said.

“I feel positive you will make graduation happen, because last year, when many districts threw their hands up, you guys made graduation happen,” he said.

Pedisich responded to these concerns by saying, “We know that those are significant milestones for our seniors and also our ninth-graders moving up, as well as our sixth-graders. We are not giving up hope.”

She added that the governor’s pending approval in March of weddings of 150 people is a good sign and reason for optimism.

“We are looking at options that will make this as special as it can be for our seniors,” Pedisich said.

The Town of Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown town officials presented its 2021 tentative budget of $107.6 million to residents last week during a virtual public town hall meeting. A budget vote is scheduled for November.

“2020 has certainly been a whirlwind throwing challenges our way that are expected to continue throughout 2021,” Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said during the meeting. “It has made our jobs as municipal managers much more difficult in both overseeing the operating results for 2020 and projecting the budget for 2021.”

He said that early on in the pandemic, the town “weathered the storm” and created adequate reserves to keep things intact and continued to complete advantageous projects including the Lake Avenue Business District, among others. “The economic benefits of these projects will last long into the future, allowing for generations to come benefit greatly,” he said. 

Wehrheim added that this year the town decreased overtime and decided to cut discretionary spending by 15%. 

“If we should experience this again, we can promise you that town board, myself and our town employees will be ready after all the town endures.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The upcoming budget claims it will maintain municipal services while trimming payroll and increasing property taxes on the typical non-village home less than 1%. 

“In 2020, we looked to reducing expenditures by reinventing our own ways of doing business and created new opportunities to make up for the pandemic-related shortfall,” the supervisor said. “This enabled me to deliver a budget it stays within a mandated allowable New York state tax cap limitation this year of 1.5%, which is becoming increasingly more difficult for municipal managers.”

Some highlights included an overall decrease in salaries accounting for a little over $600,000. 

“Due to the retirement incentive we instituted during the pandemic, we did not utilize any fund balance to balance this budget,” he said. “It is a structurally balanced budget.”

Wehrheim said that overall taxes increased by less than 1% with the exception of residents within the St. James water district who experienced a slightly greater increase due to the water mains along Lake Avenue. The Lake Avenue Project cost $8 million, and includes a dry sewer line that officials home could connect to a sewage treatment plant at the Gyrodyne site near the town’s Brookhaven border. 

The 2021 tentative budget meeting broke down expenses by type. The bulk of expenses at 34% goes towards salaries, 30% to contractual agreements, 29% to employee benefits, 5% to debt service and 2% to equipment. 

It also states the Town’s General fund will see an increase of $22.57 for a home assessed at $5,500 or 3.74%. The same residence will see a reduction in their highway taxes of $4.51 or 3.61% for a net increase of $18.06 per residence valued at $5,500 or 2.48% increase. 

Residents not within village boundaries will see taxes increase by $10.48 for a home assessed at $5,500 or 0.81% higher. Wehrheim said no use of fund balance in any of those funds were used to balance the budget.

After officials broke down the plan, residents voiced their concerns. Members from the civic group We Are Smithtown brought up issues surrounding the Lake Avenue Project, the Master Plan and questions involving the town’s School Age Child Care Program. 

The group criticized that the budget seemed to show the town was profiting off of the program with the tentative budget showing revenue exceeded expenses by $548,264 in 2019. However, it shows that the program is expected to operate at a $226,846 loss this year, and that revenue is expected to exceed costs by $100,000 in 2021. 

James Bouklas, president of the group, argued that the Town of Smithtown brings in $1.413 million in revenue for the program each year, yet the budget shows the program’s cost is $828,000 – a profit of almost $600,000 yearly.

“If you look at the cost, you can see it’s pretty comprehensive,” he said. “This is not its own fund, it’s part of the general fund … In my opinion, it’s pretty comprehensive. There’s not a lot of shared services.” 

He added that the group called for an accounting for every dollar coming into the program. “All profits should be refunded to the families of the program,” Bouklas said. 

Patty Stoddard, a Nesconset resident and board member of the group, said this program is essential to working parents and should be accounted for. 

“This is a program that is a lifeline for working parents often work long hours to be able to afford to live in Smithtown and send their kids to excellence,” she said at the meeting. “This is not the first time we’ve addressed issues with this program. It came to our attention earlier this year that many childcare workers in the towns program were earning less than minimum wage. We pressured the town into doing the right thing and the town agreed to increase wages.”

However, Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug said the budget does not break down the program’s cost provided by other town departments including payroll, insurance, accounting and Parks and Recreation. 

“If you add them to the direct costs, would greatly diminish what you’re perceiving to be, quote, a profit,” he said. “We don’t measure profit and losses within a governmental entity. We’re not viewing it as a business per say. We’re not trying to make money off of that, and the fact of the matter is between 2020, because of the diminished revenues, we’re anticipating a loss of $227,000.”

Despite the problems 2020 caused for everyone locally and across the country, Wehrheim said he hopes the town will never have to witness circumstances like this again. 

“If we should experience this again, we can promise you that town board, myself and our town employees will be ready after all the town endures,” he said.

File photo by Julianne Mosher

Schools are staring down the barrel of funding cuts because of the COVID-19 crisis.

While students have been returning to their new normal of hybrid classes, remote learning and plastic barriers between desks, school districts across New York state are concerned about the news surrounding a potential 20% state funding cut.

Elwood Super Ken Bossert, pictured above before the pandemic, said every single school will need to make painful cuts if things don’t go their way. Photo from Heather Mammolito

According to New York State Education Department, the State Division of the Budget has begun withholding 20% of most local aid payments, forcing reductions in some payments to school districts across the state. The reductions in aid, combined with increased costs during pandemic times, could affect not only students, but community members too.  

“All public schools throughout New York state will have to make deep and painful cuts if federal assistance in the form of school aid is not secured,” said Ken Bossert, superintendent of Elwood school district. “The governor’s proposal of reducing aid by 20% will impact districts that rely heavily on aid in a devastating way. Not only will programs and staffing be redacted, the gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots’ will widen.”

Mark Secaur, superintendent of Smithtown school district, noted that during the height of the pandemic in New York last spring, the state adopted a budget that contained three review periods, in which local aid distributions might be reduced on a rolling basis, based on the revenues the state received. 

“On August 18, districts throughout New York state received a state aid payment for the 2019-2020 school year that withheld 20% of the expected payment,” he said. “Also included was a note that all future payments would be reduced by 20% in the absence of federal relief.”

Secaur added that for Smithtown, this equates to a potential loss of upward of $9 million in state aid. 

“When developing our 2020-2021 school budget, the district took into consideration the potential loss of state aid and made adjustments,” he said. “However, these losses, coupled with the unfunded expenditures required for the safe return of students, will likely force the district to significantly utilize the fund balance and reserves to balance the budget.”

In addition, the budget doesn’t cover the costs that are protecting children returning to their classrooms. 

“Cleaning supplies, dividers for rooms … the cost is close to $4 million,” said Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country school district.

That sum didn’t include the cost to keeping the schools operational — even when students weren’t in them when the pandemic hit. 

“There was still a cost to keep the schools running,” Gerold added. “It was a rough couple of months.”

Gerard Poole, superintendent of Shoreham-Wading River school district, agreed.

“In a time when students need more, we won’t be able to provide that,” he said. 

While Poole and his peers are trying to stay optimistic, and are pleased to have students back, he wonders if it will be sustainable. “It’s an uncertain time — it won’t be the easiest thing for districts to put a budget together this year,” he said. “We just have to take it day by day.”

“We’re trying to plan for a budget without knowing what’s going to happen.”

— Roberta Gerold

While each district is different on the Island, they can all agree that continuing to plan during an uncertain time is very difficult. 

“We’re trying to plan for a budget without knowing what’s going to happen,” Gerold said. “If we have the info, we can figure that out. … It’s a scary time for sure.”

Miller Place school district declined to comment but did release a letter Sept. 3 penned to elected officials, asking for their support.

“As our elected officials we implore you act quickly to stop any and all federal and state reductions regarding payments to New York state school districts,” the letter said. “As district leaders we remain focused on the mission of returning students to our classrooms, and providing them with the social, emotional and academic supports they need in order to achieve their 2020-21 instructional goals.”

The letter continued, “Please recognize any reductions in federal or state aid payments would dramatically reduce our ability to sustain our district’s fiscal health, as well as maintain the support needed to ensure our students and staff physical health.”

The Smithtown School District received nearly four times as many votes for this year's school budget compared to last years. File photo

By Odeya Rosenband

School districts across Suffolk County have seen a sizable increase in voter turnout for their 2020-21 budget elections, in comparison with previous years.

2019 Budget Vote Tallies

SWR: 1,458

Rocky Point: 916

Miller Place: 783

Mount Sinai:1,381

Port Jeff: 719

Comsewogue: 812

Middle Country: 2,058

Three Village: 2,087

Smithtown: 2,776

2020 Budget Vote Tallies SWR: 2,947 (+1,458)

Rocky Point: 2,913 (+1,997)

Miller Place: 3,016 (+2,233)

Mount Sinai:2,965 (+1,584)

Port Jeff: 1,387 (+668)

Comsewogue: 3,349 (+2,537)

Middle Country: 7,639 (+5,581)

Three Village: 9231 (+7,244)

Smithtown: 11,071 (+8,293)

Notably, as opposed to in-person, all voting was conducted through a mail-in ballot this year due to the threat of COVID-19. This process made voting more readily accessible to all community members, who have largely been under stay-at-home orders as the county remained in Phase 2 at the time of the elections.

Among North Shore school districts covered by TBR News Media, the Hauppauge school district witnessed the most significant change, receiving nearly five times more voters than they did last year. Like every district, Hauppauge’s budget passed but is expecting possible cuts in state aid later in the year. This anticipation is another factor that helps to explain the increased voter turnout, as this upcoming school year’s budget is highly sensitive. 

Kenneth Bossert, superintendent of Elwood school district, noted that despite the increase in voters, the ratio of people who supported the budget to those who didn’t remained similar between the two years. “Most budgets that stay under the tax cap pass,” he said. Voter turnout in Elwood increased by 253 percent from last year, with 3,985 total voters. 

Not only has voting been made more accessible this year due to the mail-in format, but the fact that more people are at home suggests that people have more time to think about their local districts. With districts trying to formulate accommodations for the next year, keeping in mind the ever-changing nature of health protocols, district heads have routinely called this year’s school budgets more crucial than normal. 

In terms of the number of new voters, Smithtown Central School District displayed the greatest difference with 8,295 more people voting than just last year. Interim Superintendent Russell Stewart said that, “The support [voters] have given us during this budget season [will] allow us to continue to offer the best education possible to our students.”

The collective increase in voter turnout for the North Shore school districts’ 2020-21 budgets — by more than threefold overall — indicates that mail-in ballots have been more successful than the previous in-person voting. 

It is a unique comparison this year to other political votes nationwide, which have also had to contend with limitations from the pandemic. While votes were still being tallied Wednesday, June 24 for the 2020 state and local primaries, turnout is expected to be lower than in similar primaries in 2018. The number of polling places on Long Island have been consolidated, and instead of absentee ballots sent directly to homes, voting forms had to be requested and sent in before deadline the night of June 23.

In 2018, the most contentious primary for the area was for the Democratic Party contender for the U.S. Congressional District 1 seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). Two years ago the total number of votes equaled 20,331. While votes were still being tallied by press time, the number of total votes for people who voted in person is  nearly 5,000 less than last election, according to data from the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Full results will not be known until after July 1 when all mailed-in votes are counted.

As of press time, Perry Gershon is currently leading for the Congressional District 1 seat. Laura Ahearn is also currently leading for the New York State Senate District 1 seat by a few hundred votes over Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).