Fewer board members on ballot for Northport

Fewer board members on ballot for Northport

Superintendent Robert Banzer speaks about the three propositions on the ballot for next week’s budget vote at last Thursday’s board meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport-East Northport residents must support or deny three major proposals next week: a $161 million budget,  $2 million in capital improvements, and reducing the amount of board members from nine to seven.

The 2016-17 budget includes an American sign language elective at Northport High School, an elementary special education program and the purchase of a new school bus.

“This really emphasizes what this budget and what this school is all about,” Vice President David Badanes said at the May 5 meeting. “At the end of the day, it’s about students — there are students who are great in robotics, students who are great in music, students who are great in foreign languages. From A to Z, students in this district continue to shine.”

Northport proposes collecting $140.9 million in taxes, a 0.55 percent increase to the tax levy from last year’s budget, which will raise the average home’s taxes assessed at $3,800 an additional $56.40. This budget meets the state-mandated tax levy cap of 0.55 percent.

The second $2 million proposition on the ballot includes boiler replacements and a new gym ceiling at Northport Middle School, with funds taken from the 2008 general construction/electromechanical capital reserve and the 2012 capital reserve fund.

The district’s Athletic Facilities Citizens Advisory Committee first introduced many of the capital projects in a presentation led by trustee Regina Pisacani last December, after the committee conducted tours of the district’s facilities to see what improvements were needed.

Members of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport presented a petition at a school board meeting last June, with more than 300 signatures, asking for the board size to go down by two members.

Armand D’Accordo, a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport who presented the petition at that meeting, said he’s seen a number of issues with the current board size.

“I have gotten the sense at board meetings, both through watching and interacting, that it seems a bit dysfunctional, due to the makeup of how many members and how long they’ve been around,” D’Accordo said.

According to the district clerk’s office, if the proposition passes, it will go into effect in next year’s election. Trustees Pisacani, Donna McNaughton and Jennifer Thompson will all be up for re-election next year, and only one of the three seats would be open.

Board members have said they disagree with the proposal, arguing that a larger board size means more representation for the district.

“I’ve always liked the idea that the community has this degree of representation with nine members,” trustee Julia Binger said in a phone interview.

Trustee Lori McCue echoed her sentiment: “The downside for the community is a lack of representation,” McCue said in a phone interview. “I don’t feel this would benefit the community.”

The Northport-East Northport budget vote will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, May 17 at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School, Fifth Avenue Elementary School and the William J. Brosnan Building.