Budget

Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

The average Commack homeowner will see an annual tax increase of around $200 if residents vote “yes” for the 2020-2021 school budget of $199,759,525. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, homeowners will vote on the budget via mail as no in-person voting will be made available.

The Commack School District Board of Education adopted the budget during its meeting held via Zoom May 19. If approved by residents, the tax cap levy increase will be 1.99 percent with a budget-to-budget increase of 1.37 percent.

Superintendent Donald James said the district, like others across New York state, is still waiting to hear if state aid will be cut later in the year, which means certain budget line items may still change. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a few weeks ago that districts can see cuts of 20 percent or more, James said that figure is an average and the exact amount, whether lower or higher, would be based on the size and wealth of the district. He said there could be rolling cuts as well.

“That’s not good news,” he said. “That’s challenging for us because once programs are in place you count on your funds coming in, and you count on managing your programs based on funds you think you’re going to get from the state.”

The superintendent said while it’s difficult to plan the budget without knowing the exact amount of reductions, they have developed alternative plans if they’re more than anticipated.

James said some reductions in the budget were enrollment driven and in place before the pandemic. There will also be reductions in personnel due to resignations or retirements. There will be 11 full-time employees less due to retirement, 10 FTE teacher assistants reduced after program reviews and 12.7 FTE, plus approximately 32 individuals such as school monitors and instructional aides due to enrollment decline.

These staff reductions have already resulted in budget savings due to the attrition. The superintendent said they may have to revisit reducing staff further, as the district may need to revisit the number of cafeteria monitors.

James said there is currently a task force looking at changes which may be required to open up schools with COVID-19 distancing practices put in place. The superintendent said transportation, sports, field trips, school gatherings and more could be affected. Possible changes could include temperatures being taken and physical measures to help with distancing. The possible increase in costs is something the district is unable to estimate at this time.

James said he has received some suggestions involving opening up school post-COVID to maintain physical distance, including reducing class sizes. He said to a certain degree the district could do so if they double the number of teachers, but the problem is the buildings don’t have double the number of classrooms.

He said the district may have to look at other ways to schedule student classes.

If the budget is passed June 9, the district plans to keep classroom sizes the same or lower, and mental health support and programs such as arts, music, physical education and more will stay intact. The district is also planning a Chromebook laptop initiative, and every student is set to receive one. James said it will be a benefit even when students return to classrooms as their books will now be loaded on Chromebooks.

James said there is a pandemic elimination adjustment of $226,250, and the district received federal stimulus money that took care of that and they may get more. He said there is not much in the capital reserve funds, however, if there is a 20 percent cut in state aid it would mean more than $6.6 million taken from the budget.

The superintendent said due to school closures the district saved $3 million, part of that money being for transportation, which could be applied to next year.

James said the district has properties they could sell to tenants who are interested, though he stressed that he was not talking about Marion Carll Farm. He said selling any properties would need residents approval through a vote.

There is a possibility of saving $2.55 million with the elimination of Common Core and individuals involved with the program such as instructional aides. Other things that could be looked into are reducing high school electives, field trips, art and music classes, staff reductions and professional development for teachers.

James said if the budget isn’t passed in June it would mean the district would have to cut an additional $2,834,090 from the budget for a total cut of $7.8 million. The Chromebook project would be eliminated as well as no equipment purchases would be made. Also, residents and community organizations would be unable to use the facilities and grounds, while elementary and middle school class sizes would need to increase and several high school electives, athletics and clubs would be eliminated.

A public hearing will be held June 2 during a virtual meeting that will be simulcast on the district’s website, www.commackschools.org.The budget vote is set for June 9.

Commack School District Board of Education has two seats up for grabs with incumbent Susan Hermer and Mike Weisberg running for one position. As for the second seat, incumbent William Hender is running unopposed. For more information on the candidates, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Andrea Paldy

As if times are not challenging enough, districts across the state must create budgets without knowing when, or by how much, state aid will be cut.

Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, has removed $1 million from next year’s budget in anticipation of cuts beyond the $300,000 decrease in aid already projected by the state in March.

The current 2020-21 budget falls within the cap on the tax levy increase of 1.96 percent, for a total budget of $218.84 million. This is a 1.75 percent increase over the 2019-20 budget.

The district has begun to make contingency plans with alternate budgets, being referred to as Phase 2, which would mean a further $2 million reduction and Phase 3, which would require a deeper cut of $3 million. Cuomo has said school aid could drop by as much as 20 percent and cuts could take place as late as December, Carlson said.

If cuts go deeper than Phase 3, they will definitely affect services and student programs, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said at the district’s May 6 school board meeting. The board would have to decide whether to make deeper cuts to the budget or use district reserves, she said.

One thing officials do know is that they do not want to make cuts once the school year has begun and would not make cuts to instructional staff.

Pedisich said the district would have to look to reserves, because “any kind of midyear cuts in terms of services would be incredibly disruptive … and this year has been disruptive itself, so we don’t want to add to it and exacerbate the situation.”

The district held a hearing on the budget May 27. Carlson will also give a budget presentation June 1 at 6:45 p.m. at the Three Village Joint Council of PTAs virtual Meet the Candidates night on Zoom. This program will allow residents to hear from the six candidates running for three seats on the school board.

Also, the Three Village Civic Association and Three Village Chamber of Commerce will jointly host an online Meet the Candidates event Thursday, May 28, at 7 p.m. via Zoom conferencing. For information about how to be part of the online meeting, go to the websites of either the civic association, www.threevillagecivics.org, or the chamber of commerce, www.3vchamber.com, for links to the Zoom meeting.

Incumbents Inger Germano, Irene Gische and Dr. Jeff Kerman are running against Shaorui Li, David McKinnon and Vinny Menten.

All 34,025 registered voters in Three Village will receive ballots with paid return postage to vote on the 2020-21 budget and board trustees. Ballots must be returned to the office of the district clerk at the North Country Administration building by 5 p.m. on June 9.

Visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com for profiles on each of the candidates.

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

Earlier this month, residents were given a glimpse of the new Smithtown Central School District budget figures. Due to reductions to transportation and foundation aid, school officials expect a 2.26 percent or $1,044,045 decrease in overall state aid. In 2020-21, the district would be set to receive $45,067,751 compared to $46,111,796 from last year.

The district’s current proposal would see an overall budget total of $255.20 million which would be a 1.50 percent and $3.77 million increase from last year’s budget. Its tax levy amount would come out to $201.46 million, an increase of 1.82 percent.

The current budget will still maintain all current programming, adds “Foreign Language Elementary School – Spanish K & 1st Grade,” also “electives at high schools — American Sign Language & Chinese/Mandarin.”

In addition, the district discussed options it could take if there are more state aid reductions. These options include offsetting revenue loss with the fund balance and/or reserves (utilizing the 2019-20 surplus), expense reductions to balance the budget or a combination of the two.

Voting will be done through ballots mailed to residents, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are due back to the district by 5 p.m. June 9.

Trustee Elections

Residents will elect three individuals to the BOE to a three-year term seat. Incumbents Matthew Gribbin and Jerry Martusciello are running unopposed, while trustee Frank James will face challenger Kevin Craine for the remaining seat.

SWR Assistant Superintendent Glen Arcuri talks to the school board about precautions the district has made toward COVID-19. Photo by Kyle Barr

With school district budgets and board elections on the docket for June 9 with an extension from New York State, this year’s crop of district spending and revenue plans have had to contend with many unknowns.

In fact, budgets may change from now until June 1, as the current pandemic holds much in the air. COVID-19, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) estimates, could result in approximately $61 billion less revenue for New York State from 2021 to 2024. The hope rests on the federal government supplying the state with emergency funding.

“It’s very, very hard to plan for the unknown,” said Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations at the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District.

The governor has three look-back periods for revising state aid. The last period is Dec. 31.

Though one certainty is the start of next school year will weigh heavily on officials, as many still do not know when students will again walk through facilities’ doors.

Additionally, complicating this year’s votes is everything must be done outside of polling locations. Suffolk County Board of Elections, based on an executive order, will mail ballots to each residence with a prepaid return envelope.

There are still many unknowns, even as districts craft budgets. Nobody could say whether students will have a fall sports season, whether students would have to wear masks and remain apart in the classroom, or whether there will even be the chance for students to learn in-person, instead of online.

Numbers floated by Cuomo for state aid reductions have not inspired much hope. The governor said without state aid, school districts could see an upward of 50 percent reduction.

“A 50 percent reduction would be very painful for our school district, it would be insurmountable for any other school district,” said Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister.

All that comes down to whether the federal government will provide aid to the state for it to maintain current budget figures.

All budget information provided is the latest from the school districts, though if it does change based on any state decisions, an update to this article will appear in the June 4 issue.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai residents will see a marginal increase in budget but only a slight increase in taxes, despite the lingering question whether students will even be in school next September. The district voted to approve its budget at its May 18 board meeting.

The 2020-21 budget sees a $61,769,870 budget, a $760,100 and 1.25 percent increase from last year. The tax levy is set at $41,396,602, an increase of 1 percent and well below the 2.43 percent cap set by New York State.

The largest increases come in the form of operations and maintenance by just over $84,000 because of contractual obligations, as well as oil and electric increases. Employee benefits increased by $272,695, mostly from employee and teacher retirement requirements. 

“Every participant in the retirement system is given percentages based on the market performances from the comptroller’s office,” said board president Robert Sweeney.

Though much of the budget remains the same in presentations from the past 3 months, officials said that this year’s budget has had to account for the fact many, many residents have been hit hard financially by the pandemic. 

“Our community is not in the same financial position five weeks ago,” said Superintendent Gordon Brosdal.

A second proposition the district will ask voters to approve $1.2 million for capital projects from the reserves. This does not increase the tax levy.

Current projects still include continuing the high school roof replacement for $865,000, replacing the middle school water heater for $100,000, among others for a total of $1,200,000. 

The district is currently set to receive $17,653,079 in state aid this upcoming school year, a some $135,000 decrease from last year. Brosdal said it was due to decreased building aid from continuing to pay off loans and bonds from building projects.

Brosdal said the question of whether the governor will cut state aid, that is still up in the air, could mean massive upheaval for the district.

“He has talked about a further 20 percent school aid cut, which would be devastating, devastating,” Brosdal said. “Things are not what they were, this is a brand new game.” 

Should the state budget change mid-year, that would also cause issues for the district, the superintendent said, as they would then have to revise the budget midstream, potentially leading to staffing cuts and program changes.

Brosdal, who in his time working from home has grown a mustache since the start of quarantine, also added, “I need to go back to school because I need to shave.”

Mount Sinai will host its budget hearing June 2 at 8 p.m. A link to the online meeting can be found at mtsinai.k12.ny.us. Votes must be received by June 9 at 8 p.m.

Miller Place

For a budget that was originally meant to be displayed and voted on earlier this month, not much has changed between then and the pandemic which has pushed the vote back to May 9. 

The district adopted its budget at its March 17 emergency meeting, but has reallocated resources in order to better meet the needs of students as they handle distance learning, and potentially when they are allowed back into school buildings.

“We reviewed all of our expenditures reallocated from areas that we can regress,” said Superintendent Marianne Cartisano.

The budget for 2020-21 is set at $75,713,895, a $1,755,288 or 2.37 percent increase from last year. Though the district also cites using about a million dollars in capital project funding, which would mean this year’s increase is $754,612, or just over 1 percent.

The largest increases come from the usual suspects such as a $390,137 or 2.38 percent increase in employee benefits and a $134,659 increase in health insurance budget.

The district’s 2020-21 tax levy, or the amount of money the district raises through area taxes, is set at $47,616,059, which sits directly at the state tax cap limit for this year of 1.46 percent. It’s an increase of $687,471 from last year.

Miller Place’s state aid was set at $23,144,911, but the district also has leftover building aid of $792,666 and will be receiving an additional $208,010 for 2020-21. Cartisano said that million or so dollars came in response to the high school gym floor, which was remedied last September. Now that aid, along with saved funds, will be used to help offset any potential reductions in state aid, should the state revise its budget somewhere down the line. 

“It’s not an advantageous place to be in to have a huge unknown, but we are fortunate that we can plan for it — the school district is very financially solid,” the superintendent said. 

In terms of programming for this upcoming year, the district plans to continue with all current classes and clubs along with adding more time to middle school math labs and new courses of AP Calculus BC and non-regents chemistry. These two new courses are being funded by reallocation of resources and will only run if there are enough students enrolled. 

The budget also adds elementary sections in an effort to lower class sizes in the third, fifth and sixth grades. These sections were seeing an average of 26 students before, but that will be reduced to 22 or 24.

The district is also adding an extra 10 minutes of “specials” time in the elementary school, or the daily activities where one day may be gym and the next day art. These activities are going from 30 to 40 minutes for physical education, art, music or library time.

The district has also allocated for a 1 to 1 technology initiative with each student receiving a district laptop or otherwise electronic device, which will also go towards distance learning if state mandates remain in place. Going along with this thought, the high school will receive an additional 3:05 p.m. late bus for students who stay after school for extra help. In addition, the district is adding two counselors to expand mental health options and assist with the transition back to classes.

This is alongside an overall enrollment that continues on the gradual declining trend. May 2019 saw a size of 2,581 students. Next year is projected to have 2,531.

Miller Place is hosting its budget hearing May 26 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Residents can go to the district website millerplace.k12.ny.us/District to find the link. All mail in ballots must be received by 5 p.m. June 9.

Rocky Point

The Rocky Point Union Free School District adopted its budget at its May 19 board meeting, though the 2020-21 budget has seen some significant reductions since it was last seen by board members in April.

Things have changed since then, with a reduction in New York State aid resulting in an even larger cut in overall budget by some $2.1 million to the new 2020-21 total of $84,586,600.

The reductions in budget coincides with a loss of state aid funds compared to last year, seeing a reduction of nearly $1.5 million. 

Expenditure decreases are across the board to reach the reduced budget. This is also to reduce the budget thanks to a tax levy cap of just 0.08 percent this year, a figure Christopher Van Cott, assistant superintendent for business, said was due to expiring debt service, which is no longer allowed as an exclusion. The budget sets the tax levy, or the amount the district raises in area taxes, at $52,483,059, setting itself directly at the tax cap, and is a very slight increase from last year’s figure. 

Van Cott said the district is “taking a very conservative approach” toward this year’s budget, adding there will be cuts in several areas while still being able to maintain current instructional programming, along with athletic and cocurricular programs.

“We looked at staffing and enrollment, and made decisions based on that enrollment, looking for different ways to deliver the same service in more economical ways,” Van Cott said. “Despite fiscal challenges, and lack of guidance and the numbers we need from the state, we were able to achieve budget goals.”

There are cuts across the board, though the biggest decreases are from administration and central services, as well as a $250,000 decrease in athletics and PPS. Van Cott said the district plans to reduce the number of sports teams at the middle school level. Though not removing any sports from the roster, multiple sports that have two teams will be reduced to one, Van Cott said. 

The district is also planning to use the capital reserves to repave the front driveway area in front of the high school with a cost not to exceed $350,000. Rocky Point’s current reserve balance is set at $1,590,368. In a separate proposition to the budget, the district will be asking residents to vote to gain access to the funds. The capital reserve does not increase the tax levy. 

The potential the state could further reduce state aid is real, and Van Cott said the district is looking to use its capital reserves, along with the described expenditures reductions, to plug any holes that come up. If state aid does not decrease, he added some of those staff positions expected to make reductions in might not have to be.

Rocky Point is hosting its budget hearing June 2 at 6 p.m., but residents will also be mailed a budget brochure and six-day notice shortly after. That same document will be available at the district website May 26. Ballots are due by 5 p.m. June 9. 

File Photo

Shoreham-Wading River

SWR’s 2020-21 budget boasts it will maintain all current programming despite looming fears state aid will be cut in the near or distant future. The district adopted the revised budget at its May 19 meeting.

The district’s $77,164,774 budget is a 1.6 percent increase from last year’s $75,952,416. The year’s tax levy, or the amount of funds raised from resident taxes, would stand at $55,391,167, a $1,013,510 increase from 2019-20.

This tax levy represents an overall decrease from what the district showed in its March presentations by almost $300,000.

Though the district boasts its maintaining its programming, the overall cuts to the planned budget have left an impact. Recent program initiatives, including several new art, wellness, jazz band and world languages clubs, have been axed. The planned SWR 101 class, which would have been a new kind of basic overview class for incoming freshmen, is no longer on the table for the year’s budget. Replacement equipment for the Wading River school’s gym wall pads and outdoor basketball hoops, as well as middle school smart classroom furniture and high school volleyball standards will not arrive as originally planned. In addition, travel and conference funding will be reduced by 50 percent if the budget is approved.

Assistant superintendent Arcuri said those funds are being redirected to applying additional “structural” support for distance learning due to COVID-19, as well as additional sanitizing equipment and supplies. He added, optimistically, there’s a possibility if funding stabilizes bringing in these proposed clubs mid-year.

The budget relies on a $12,789,308 state aid package, which would be a $112,843 increase from last year. To make room for the very real potential the state could make cuts to state aid midyear in the fall, the district has placed certain items in the budget that would not be purchased before Dec. 31, including multiple infrastructure projects at Miller Avenue elementary and the middle school, as well as work on the districtwide grounds and asphalt repairs.  

“These are not items that are absolutely essential,” Arcuri said. “They are important to get completed, but they are not more important than losing instructional support or any student related program and/or any staff within the district.”

Of course, with so much still unknown, the district does not know if the approximately $5,235,229 of a $24,114,734 five-year contract with bus company First Student will even be used.

The district is planning to host its budget hearing presentation May 26. For mail-in ballots, all must be received in the clerk’s office by 5 p.m., June 9.

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson high schools. File photos

With school district budgets and board elections on the docket for June 9 with an extension from New York State, this year’s crop of district spending and revenue plans have had to contend with many unknowns. 

In fact, budgets may change from now until June 1, as the current pandemic holds much in the air. COVID-19, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) estimates, could result in approximately $61 billion less revenue for New York State from 2021 to 2024. The hope rests on the federal government supplying the state with emergency funding.

“It’s very, very hard to plan for the unknown,” said Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations at the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District.

The governor has three look-back periods for revising state aid. The last period is Dec. 31.

Though one certainty is the start of next school year will weigh heavily on officials, as many still do not know when students will again walk through facilities’ doors.

Additionally, complicating this year’s votes is everything must be done outside of polling locations. Suffolk County Board of Elections, based on an executive order, will mail ballots to each residence with a prepaid return envelope. A household may contact the district clerks for more information about ballots.

There are still many unknowns, even as districts craft budgets. Nobody could say whether students will have a fall sports season, whether students would have to wear masks and remain apart in the classroom, or whether there will even be the chance for students to learn in-person, instead
of online.

Numbers floated by Cuomo for state aid reductions have not inspired much hope. The governor said without state aid, school districts could see an upward of 50 percent reduction.

“A 50 percent reduction would be very painful for our school district, it would be insurmountable for any other school district,” said Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister.

All that comes down to whether the federal government will provide aid to the state for it to maintain current budget figures. 

All budget information provided is the latest from the school districts, though it is currently subject to change. If it does, an update to this article will appear in the June 4 issue. 

File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson School District

The Port Jeff School District is for the most part staying to the course established by previous budget presentations. 

Next year’s budget is looking at a 1.83 percent increase from last year for a total of $44,739,855. This year’s tax levy, or the amount raised through property taxes, is $37,356,454, a $457,630 or 1.24 percent increase from last year.

The district is expecting to receive $3,863,212 in state aid, a marked increase of 2.54 percent from last year. However, district officials said while the amounts have been set, there is no word on whether the state will reduce those amounts midstream into next school year. 

“We’ll be working under a lot of uncertainty, from month to month to quarter to quarter,” Leister said. 

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district has been watching the “political push and pull” of state aid reductions closely. 

“The swing in what that state aid is, is concerning to us, and the difficult part is it’s an unknown,” she said. “I think that needs to be drawn upon. There is a lot of advocacy happening to make sure there is some federal money to help with this large deficit.”

Leister added that legislation allowing the district to put aside unspent money from this year into next year’s in excess of legal reserve limits would also help.

Leister said this year’s budget increases are mainly due to the standard labor agreement increases, an increase in the retirement contribution rate and a decrease in debt services. Continuing building improvements included in the budget are the second part of the security vestibule capital project, a new replacement retaining wall to the technical education building, a replacement to the middle school heating system. 

This year’s capital reserve will also be used for some of these projects, including $2 million for continuing work on the high school roof replacement project. 

In terms of reserves, the district expects to use $3.4 million, leaving $14.5 million in reserve at the end of next year. This could be used “to help offset a reduction in state aid,” Leister said. “This is our rainy day funds, and I would definitely classify that as a rainy day.”

Because of the ongoing glide path due to the LIPA settlement, the district will experience a 3.5 percent loss. This is compared to last school year, where the loss was 6 percent. As a result of this smaller loss, there will be an extra $48,185 in power plant tax revenue at $1,477,185.  

Enrollment is continuing on a downward path. In 2014, total enrollment sat at 1,197, which became 1,115 in 2018 and turns to 1,052 in 2020. Along those same lines, Port Jefferson is reducing staff by three teachers, and a total equivalent of five full-time employees overall. That is subject to change as scheduling goes on.

The district also provided estimates for tax rates based on a property’s assessed value. A home with a $12,500 assessed value could expect a $20,466 bill at the 3.5 percent tax rate. On the lower end, a home assessed at $1,600 would see a $2,620 bill. The budget hearing will be hosted May 12 at 7 p.m.

Ballots must be returned to the district clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. June 9.  Should additional ballots be required at a residence, the district clerk can be contacted by either email at [email protected] or by phone at 631-791-4221.

Comsewogue High School

Comsewogue School District

Comsewogue district officials said they are taking their savings from not operating to the same extent the last few months and, instead of putting it into the fund balance, are carrying it over to next year, boasting that doing so results in a 0 percent tax increase.

District residents will be asked to vote on two propositions, one is the budget of $96,635,581 and the other is take $1,500,000 from the capital fund and use it for high school improvements including two synthetic turf fields for baseball and softball, high school boiler room HVAC repairs and otehr classroom renovations. 

Associate Superintendent Susan Casali said the district is allocating an additional fund balance from operational savings from the closure of the buildings to this year’s budget, resulting in the no tax increase. Last year’s $57,279,755 tax levy, or the amount the district raises from area taxes, will then be this year’s as well.

Despite this, the budget largely remains the same from the district’s March presentations. The $96.6 million budget is an increase of 2.8 percent or $2,660,826.

“We still have to plan,” Casali said. “We’re assuming currently we’ll be opening on time in September.” 

Overall, programming is set to remain the same, the associate super said. The biggest budget increases come from instructional costs, with $819,111 extra going to regular school instruction and an additional $803,412 for special education. The district is adding one full-time psychologist/social worker and one other full-time employee to the technology department.

The district is also adding an additional section to the fourth grade at Boyle Road Elementary.

In terms of state aid, the district is seeing a planned reduction of approximately $150,000, or -0.5 percent to $32,550,000. Last year the district received $32,700,000.

The question of whether or not the district will even receive the full amount of this reduced sum still depends on whether or not the state will hold onto its current budget. 

Due to the rampant change in schedules for the actual budget and board of education vote, this year Comsewogue will be hosting its budget hearing June 1, with the actual vote scheduled for a week later, June 9.

Ballots must be given or posted for receipt by the clerk’s office in the state-issued return envelope by 5 p.m. June 9. Casali said it’s best for residents to catch the mail by June 2 to make sure it arrives on time.

This post was amended May 26 to better clarify the mail in ballots.

Commack School District Board of Education has two seats up for grabs with incumbent Susan Hermer and Mike Weisberg running for one position. As for the second seat, incumbent William Hender is running unopposed.

Voting will be done through ballots mailed to residents, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are due back to the district by June 9.

Susan Hermer

Susan Hermer. Photo from candidate

Last year, Hermer beat out Jennifer Scully for a one-year term after the resignation of former board member Jennifer Carpenter.

The attorney, with a general practice firm in Bohemia, said being on the board has been fulfilling for her.

“I am running for my first full term because I enjoy being on the board advocating for our students and teachers,” she said. “And all members of this board get along and respect each other. I love our kids and the school district, and I relish being back in the schools since I no longer have kids in the district.”

She said she is concerned that some programs may need to be cut from the budget due to the reduction in state aid.

“I also want to make sure our special-needs students get all the help they need,” she said. “I am happy with the lease we worked out with Long Island University and the Marion Carll property, and I am pleased with the capital projects bond we recently passed.”

Last year the district worked out a deal with LIU for the educational institution to use the Marion Carll Farm, which was left to the district decades ago and fell into disrepair as it became difficult to keep up with the expenses to maintain the property.

Mike Weisberg

Mike Weisberg. Photo from candidate

A lifelong resident of Commack and school psychologist in a neighboring district, Weisberg said he believes his professional experience, as well as being a parent and working in a school district, will be an asset to the trustee position.

He said with the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, he feels there will be an increased need to support students socially and emotionally. He added he believes there will be more issues regarding the negative effects of an overdigitalized world.

“Now we’re dealing with a global crisis, with an emphasis on social learning,” he said. “I really believe even before we got into this pandemic, we were seeing an increased need in dealing with this overdigitalization.”

Weisberg had originally planned to run last year, and said he postponed his candidacy to become more involved in committee work in the district. He said his main concerns are maintaining the programs and the number of classes currently offered in the district.

“Commack has done a great job of providing a lot of that,” he said. “I would really like to do whatever we can to maintain that diversity, because educating a student is much more than teaching math equations or learning a specific skill. It’s really about helping children to develop into their full potential as adults, and schools really play a vital role in that.”

William Hender

William Hender. Photo from candidate

This will be the second term on the board for Hender. He said he brings an “important and necessary skill set to the position.”

“Having spent the past 20 years in education, as a teacher and administrator, I have a good understanding of what is necessary to continue to provide access and opportunity for all our students,” he said. “I think we have developed a great team here in Commack and I am happy to be part of it. I am a product of the Commack School system and attribute many of my successes to the education that I received. I want all students, including my own children, to have the same wonderful experiences for years to come.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hender said he had no concerns regarding the budget. “However, now I have many concerns, such as will the governor continue to make cuts to school aid throughout the year, and if so, how much?” he said. “In addition, I am concerned about what changes in programs and cuts we will need to make once the actual cut in state aid is announced.”

Huntington High School. File photo.

Since schools officially closed in March due to the coronavirus, many school districts were forced to revisit tentative budget proposals for the 2020-21 academic year. With the anticipation of reductions in state aid and other areas, districts like Huntington and many others are left in a tough spot.

Budget

At a May 11 board of education meeting, the school district detailed changes to the budget. School officials expect a 15 percent reduction in state aid from the previously enacted state budget. The district would stand to lose close to $3 million in aid going from receiving $18.6 million to 16 million.

The district’s current proposal would see an overall budget total of $135,938,167 with a 1.77 percent increase. Its tax levy amount comes out to 112,350,000.

Included in the budget vote is a second proposition that would approve the release of monies for state-approved projects which will total to over $3.6 million.

Southdown Primary School: $340,000 would be used for rooftop solar panels.

Huntington High School: Partial roof replacement costing $1 million.

Finley Middle School: Science/prep rooms reconstruction and boiler replacements would cost $2 million.

Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School: New auditorium seating and flooring would cost $300,000.

Costs of repairs of Finley M.S lockers will also be included in the total.

The next budget meeting will be held May 18 where the district expects to adopt its revised budget. A public budget hearing has been set for June 1, and the budget vote and trustee elections will be June 9. Absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m.

Trustee Election 

Residents will elect two individuals to the BOE to a three-year term commencing July 1 and expiring June 30, 2023. Board president Jennifer Hebert will be vying for reelection. She has served on the board for the past nine years.

Long time trustee member Xavier Palacios will be seeking reelection as well and looks to secure a fourth three-year term on the board.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai parents will begin to see portions of the school district’s 2020-21 proposed budget figures in the next few months. At a Jan. 15 board of education meeting, district officials unveiled 12 percent of the budget, which included central administration, insurance, central printing, BOCES, transportation, technology and debt services among others. 

The tentative total budget figure for 2020-21 looks to be $61,009,700, a slight increase from last year’s number. 

Board of education/central administration costs would be increasing by $19,000 in the upcoming school year. 

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the chunk of that increase would go into costs for an additional budget vote and cover the translation of all documents/public notices into Spanish. That would cost the district $14,000. 

“It is a state mandate that hit us and other districts this year,” he said. “Any election/public notices has to be translated into Spanish. The state says we have to do this, but they are not giving us any money to do this.”

Another mandate that will be implemented is the addition of a data protection officer in response to a number of school districts experiencing hacks last year. 

Purchasing cost will increase by $2,050 in 2020-21 due to the district utilizing a co-op organization that assists in securing materials and supplies. 

“We have been using Educational Data Services — they do a lot — they work with vendors and we don’t have to do the bidding,” Brosdal said. “In the long run it will save us money.”

Technology will see an increase of over $65,000, in part due to the district getting rid of antiquated equipment as well as adding sets of laptops, replacement items like projector lamps, printer repairs, iPads and smart board parts. 

Tax Anticipation Notes for 2020-21 are estimated at 3 percent. Debt services would decrease by over $6,000. Central printing, insurance, BOCES administration will increase collectively by $22,000. 

The next budget meeting will be Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. Topics discussed will be pupil personnel services, building principals, instructional and adult ed/driver’s ed. 

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

On Tuesday, Nov. 19 residents of the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District approved a proposed scope of work totaling $34.4 million, which will be funded utilizing $1.2 million from the current capital reserve fund and a $33.2 million bond. The bond passed with a vote of 534 Yes and 398 No. The board of education and Superintendent  Robert C. Fenter would like to thank all community residents who participated in this vote.

“Our community continues to demonstrate their commitment to provide our students with a quality education that will provide the skills needed to be successful in the future,” said BOE President Anthony Paolano. “We appreciate their support and look forward to building upon our current success to create an improved learning environment that is focused on the future.”

The scope of work in the bond will benefit all schools including:

• Construction of a new science learning center at CSH Jr./Sr. High School with four newly constructed science classrooms and a marine wet lab, featuring the district’s unique Coral Reef Project.

• Construction of a new STEAM suite at CSH Jr./Sr. High School including a new redesigned robotics space.

• Installation of full-building generators at all schools to avoid disruption of instruction and to ensure school openings during local power outages.

• Installation of new sound and energy-efficient LED lighting systems in the CSH Jr./Sr. High School Performing Arts Center.

• An expanded kitchen, renovated cafeteria and additional parking at West Side Elementary School.

• Renovated music space at Goosehill Primary School.

• Improved security for classroom doors in all schools.

• Current weightlifting room in the basement of CSH Jr./Sr. High School will be relocated and renovated for use as a physical education/sports training space.

 • Additional parking spaces will be created at CSH Jr./Sr. High School to accommodate parking needs during sporting events.

For a more detailed breakdown of the complete scope of work, visit the district website at www.csh.k12.ny.us.

The district will keep the community informed on the progress of the approved work.

Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 Nov. 6. TBR News Media file photo

County residents got a glimpse of the county’s budget process as the operating budget working group held its first public meeting Oct. 17 when the 2019-20 recommended operating budget was discussed.  

The county operating budget funds employee payroll costs, county departments and a variety of other expenditures. The status of the budget has been in the spotlight since the New York State comptroller, Tom DiNapoli (D), said Suffolk was under “significant fiscal stress” — with Nassau — for the second year in a row. In 2018, Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

The topic has been an important issue in the county executive race. The current incumbent, Steve Bellone (D), has stated that during his tenure he has worked to bring the county spending and finances back in check. John Kennedy Jr., the county comptroller and Republican challenger for executive, has stated that the county is in a “fiscal crisis.”

Here is what legislators discussed at the meeting. The proposed operating budget for 2019-20 will be $3.2 billion, an increase from last year’s $3.1 billion budget. 

The recommended budget would look to increase property taxes by $14.66 million (2.14 percent), according to the report. The increase is comprised of a rise in police district property taxes of $16.56 million (2.8 percent). 

The police district will face an $11.3 million deficit by the end of 2019. It is the fourth year in a row that the district will have a deficit. Overtime for the police department in 2019 is estimated at $30.9 million. 

In addition, the county’s general fund, despite seeing an increase of $318 million in revenue from 2015 to 2019, is projected to experience its fifth consecutive deficit in 2019. Combined with the police district, the county may face an operating deficit of some $20 million. 

Sales tax revenue is projected to increase an additional $48.5 million from 2019-20 or about 4.5 percent.  

Another area of concern is the county payroll. It has increased by $315 million in the last seven years, despite the workforce being reduced by 1,250 positions. From the start of 2019 through Sept. 8, the number of active county employees on the payroll declined by approximately 150, according to the report. The recommended expenditures for employee health care in 2020 is projected to increase by approximately by $22.2 million. 

The Budget Review Office also raised concerns in the report that property taxes in the Southwest Sewer District, which covers parts of Babylon and Islip, would decrease by $2.14 million. This could lead to less funds available for sewer projects and potentially increase borrowing. 

In terms of other revenue, the county is projected to see an increase in funds from video lottery terminals at Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia. The revenue brought in will increase to $25 million in 2020 compared to $2.9 million in 2018 and $3.3 million in 2019. 

For homeowners, the proposed county property tax will yield an estimated average tax bill of $1,207, an increase of $25. Average taxes per homeowners will increase by $32 in five western towns, including Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington, and decrease by $2 in the county’s five eastern towns.