Tags Posts tagged with "2023-24 budget"

2023-24 budget

Commack HIgh School. Photo from Google Maps

On Tuesday, May 16, residents of Commack School District will vote on the proposed budget for the upcoming academic year as well as available positions on the Board of Education.

William Hender

This year’s total budget is $222.110,181, up $7,464,854 from last year’s $214,645,327, which is a $7,464,854 difference, or a 3.48% increase. The tax levy will increase from $149,681,444 last year to $152,660,104. This would be a rise of $2,978,660, resulting in a 1.99% tax levy increase.

A message from the Board of Education in the Commack Courier states: “Our goal of long-term fiscal stability and planning is maintained in the 2023‒2024 school year budget, with a tax levy increase of 1.99%, well under our tax cap of 2.34%.”

The proposed budget would include maintaining all current academic, social-emotional and extracurricular programs. Class sizes would not increase.

The budget also includes improvements to school facilities. Construction on pickleball courts at the high school will begin during the summer, and new playground equipment at primary schools is scheduled to be installed in the fall.

Two trustee positions on the school board will also be on the ballot this year. Two incumbents, William Hender and Susan J. Hermer, are seeking reelection. There are no challengers for their positions.

Hender has been a resident of Commack for more than 40 years and currently has three children attending Commack public schools. In a Q&A from the Commack School District’s website, he says that he “will continue to bring honesty and integrity to the position of trustee.”

Susan Hermer,

He said that his role on the board is representing the community and providing the best education possible for all the children in the district. “It is my job to advocate for public education and ensure that this community receives proper funding from the state and federal government,” Hender added.

Hermer has been a resident of Commack for 31 years and raised two sons who graduated from the Commack School District.

Hermer stated that her 38 years of experience as an attorney is an asset to the Board. “I can analyze data, facts and details,” she said. “My experience as a problem solver and my ability to research and negotiate contributes greatly to our board.”

Hermer believes that the role of a board member is to “put our students first and look to the future with sound financial planning to make sure the district can provide services and the best education without significantly raising taxes or cutting programs.”

Voting will take place at the Commack Middle School and Commack High
School on Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m.
to 9 p.m.

File photo

The Northport‒East Northport Union Free School District budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May 16. Additionally, voting for two trustee positions on the Board of Education and a proposition will be on the ballot.

David Badanes


The entire proposed budgeted revenue is $183,038,428, up from $177,856,084 the prior year, resulting in a 2.91% increase. The prior year’s tax levy budget allotted $150,628,324. The proposed 2023‒24 budget would increase that to $154,032,970, an increase of $3,404,646 (2.26%). The tax levy limit is 2.27%, so this just gets in under the required tax cap.

A budget presentation provided by the district website notes that this tax levy increase would result in “an increase to the average taxpayer of $181.28.”

Board of Education trustee race

The Board of Education has two trustee seats open. There are three candidates vying for the positions. Two candidates, Donna McNaughton and David Badanes, are incumbents seeking reelection. The challenger is Amanda Cascio.

David Badanes has been a member of the board for 11 years and previously had served as president and vice president. Most recently, he was a trustee and plans to continue in that role. In a candidate newsletter from the school district, Badanes says that one of his goals is to limit new tax increases. In this newsletter, when asked if he supports the proposed budget, he said: “Yes. The BOE was able to keep all programs and reduce the proposed tax levy to under 2%.”

Donna McNaughton has been a member of the board for more than 10 years as well. She previously served as vice president. Currently, she’s a trustee and is seeking reelection in that role. In the newsletter, she said that she is “prepared to invest the time necessary to strengthen our schools in a fiscally responsible way.” She supports the proposed budget and believes “the school budget preserves opportunities for students and respects the taxpayer. The 2% tax cap requires board members to closely monitor the impact of one budget as it relates to future budgets.”

Amanda Cascio.

Amanda Cascio, mother of four children, says she is invested in what’s best for the school district since she has children that will be attending the schools through 2037. She believes there is a “disconnect between the board and the public they serve. I hope to bridge this disconnect.”

She does not agree with the current budget proposal. “We currently have surplus funds available, income potential in unused properties, and staff reductions due to retirements with plans to potentially replace about half of those positions,” Cascio said in the newsletter. “I would want to fully realize the potential cost savings before going to a community already feeling the burden of increased taxes.”

Meet the Candidates

In a Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Northport-East Northport PTA Council, there were some differing opinions on the prospect of armed security being utilized inside the school buildings.

McNaughton and Badanes both said in 2018 they voted against a proposal to bring armed security guards into the schools and still feel that way, while Cascio was more open to the prospect.

“If there was an SRO [School Resource Officer] specifically trained that never went inside the building, I’m open to exploring that,” McNaughton said, but added that she would not want armed guards inside the buildings.

Badanes stated that research shows that armed guards and SROs do not act as a deterrent to active shooters. He said that if new research came out that suggested that these do act as deterrents, then he would be open to considering it.

Cascio does support incorporating armed security guards into the schools and that utilizing active shooter training for staff would be beneficial. “Response time in these situations is imperative to shutting down the situation as quickly as possible to mitigate the loss of life,” she said. She believes an SRO inside the building who knows the layout well would be beneficial because of how quickly they could respond to a threat.

Another topic discussed was the potential to sell or lease three school district buildings. Cascio believes that leasing is the better way to go.

“Selling the buildings offers a one-time lump sum, whereas leasing buildings and having those options available to us gives us long-term income,” Cascio said. She also added that if enrollment increased in the coming years, the district could use those buildings for schooling once again.

Regarding leasing, Badanes said, “It can provide income throughout, but it has its negatives as well.” He also pointed out that the ultimate decision would come up to a vote by the district residents, and it would not be the decision of the Board of Education.

McNaughton said that she would not be in favor of renting all three. She said if it were up to her, she would sell the Bellerose building and would explore renting the Dickinson and Brosnan buildings.


In addition to the school budget, residents will also be able to vote on a proposition to allow the use of $2,374,944 from capital reserve funds for three projects: district-wide roof replacement, district-wide HVAC renovations and/or reconstruction and district-wide asbestos abatement.

Voting Locations

Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are three different polling locations. According to the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District website, residents who live “south of the center line of Pulaski Road” can vote at Fifth Avenue Elementary School. Residents who live “north of the center line of Pulaski Road and south of the center line of Route 25A” can vote at Dickinson Avenue School. Residents who live “north of the center line of Route 25A” can vote at William J. Brosnan School.

Huntington High School. File photo

On Tuesday, May 16, residents will vote on the proposed Huntington Union Free School District budget as well as two open seats on the Board of Education.

Kelly Donavan

The proposed budget for the 2023‒-24 year is $146,347,091, up $3,378,748 (2.36%) from the previous year’s budget. The property tax levy will increase from $112,718,438 the previous year to $113,711,800, up $993,362, a 0.88% increase. A brochure from the HUFSD states that in the two prior years the tax levy increased 0.00% and 0.33%.

Board of Education President Christine Biernacki wrote in a letter in the brochure: “We have carefully reviewed all expenses and made adjustments where necessary to ensure that funding is used most efficiently and effectively. We are wholly dedicated to serving as good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.”

Additionally, there is a proposition that the brochure states will “expend monies that exist in Building Improvement Funds for a variety of projects in district buildings.”

Passage of this proposition will not result in a tax increase, the district said.  This proposition would approve the use of up to $5,935,000 from Capital Reserve Funds for a variety of different projects and repairs in district buildings.

Amaru Jones

These include “installation of new boilers at Flower Hill and Southdown Primary Schools, updates to the electrical service at Southdown Primary School, updates to the electrical service and solar panel installation at Washington Primary School, roof replacement and pressure boost system installation at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, reconstruction of two science labs at Finley Middle School, and installation of lighting for the new turf field at Huntington High School.”

There are two open Board of Education seats that will be voted on. Incumbents Kelly Donavan and Xavier Palacios are seeking reelection. Amaru Jones is challenging.

A profile from the brochure states that “Donavan has established strong bonds with local parents and community members, and has a deep appreciation for the Huntington School District and its rich academic, extracurricular and cultural offerings.” She wishes to “help maximize the educational experience for all Huntington students, while balancing nuanced community demands.”

Xavier Palacios

Palacios, the other incumbent, encourages parents to get involved in the education of their children. He has been “recognized for his work in the community and for his efforts to strengthen opportunities for young people.”

Jones is a graduate of Huntington High School’s class of 2016. The brochure states that Jones would focus on “‘educating the whole child’ in the context of providing as many resources as possible to ensure student access in the classroom and in their future pursuits.”

The voting will take place at the Huntington High School on Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Leah Chiappino

The Smithtown Central School District 2023-24 proposed budget of $280,642,272, is an increase of 4.8% from this year’s budget of $267,786,882 with a proposed tax levy of 2.83% which is within the district’s allowable limit.

There are three seats open on the board, with incumbent Matthew Gribbin as well as challengers Vlad Pean and Nicholas De Bello running on one ticket, and incumbent John Savoretti along with Elena Guttieri and Kevin Craine on another. They are competing for three-year terms from July 1 through June 30, 2026. Trustee Jerry Martusciello is not seeking reelection.

The school budget vote and election will be held Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For polling places, visit the district website at www.smithtown.k12.ny.us and use the “Budget Information” tab.

The candidates discussed the issues at a meet-the-candidates night May 4 moderated by the Suffolk PTA.

Kevin Craine

Craine is a sixth-grade teacher at Lloyd Harbor Elementary School in the Cold Spring Harbor school district, and father of three children who attend St. James Elementary. He has also served as a youth sports coach, emergency medical technician and PTA volunteer.

According to his biography, he has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and holds a school district administrative certificate from Stony Brook University. A Smithtown graduate himself, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology/education from SUNY Geneseo and a Master of Science in liberal studies/coaching from SBU.

“While I am very proud of all these accomplishments, it all pales in comparison to the pride that I have for this community,” he said.

If elected, he pledged to make his constituents’ voices heard and feel as though they matter through “increased transparency, administrative accountability and collaboration.”

Nicholas De Bello

De Bello said his father was a social studies teacher at Nesaquake Middle School and Smithtown High School East, and his mother was a social worker for the Sachem school district. 

 “I was growing up with that inspiration from my parents about the value of schools and how educators can make first-hand differences in the lives of children,” he said.

A former caseworker for Suffolk County Department of Social Services, he is currently a vice president for the Association of Municipal Employees. He noted that several school employees, such as crossing guards and early intervention specialists, are members of the union.

He pledged to fight for small class sizes if elected. 

Matthew Gribbin

Gribbin, the current board president and a gym teacher in the Half Hollow Hills school district, graduated from The University of Maine in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and physical education. He then earned a M.S. in educational technology from Long Island University. Gribbin’s three children attend Smithtown schools, and he said it is important for him and his family to give back.

“My wife and I love raising our children in this great community,” he said. “There’s so much to offer. With that comes responsibility. We feel that it’s important to be active contributors to make this community and district what it is.”

As such, Gribbin serves as a soccer coach with the Smithtown Kickers, basketball coach with St. Patrick’s R.C. Church of Smithtown, has coached lacrosse and baseball, and also assists with PTA events. He has previously served as a board member and division coordinator with the Kickers. 

Gribbin has frequently sparred with fellow trustees Stacy Ann Murphy, Karen Wontrobski-Ricciardi and Savoretti.

A particularly contentious moment occurred at the Oct. 25 meeting, when Wontrobski-Ricciardi questioned the athletic placement process which allows skilled middle school athletes to participate at the high school level. At the same time, trustee Michael Catalanotto’s son was up for consideration. Subsequent events led Wontrobski-Ricciardi to seek the removal of Catalanotto and Gribbin from the board through the New York State Education Department.

The complaint was dismissed, but in the decision NYS Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa encouraged Gribbin “to comport himself in the future in a manner befitting a holder of public office.”

Gribbin acknowledged that there had been challenges during his tenure. “Many people have thanked me for running for reelection this year knowing all that I’ve dealt with over the past three years as board president,” he said.

He chose to run again “because there is still work to be done.” Gribbin counted his chief accomplishments as board president as decreasing class sizes, increasing programming, adding mental health support, improving district security and building partnerships among the community, such as with the Town of Smithtown and Suffolk County Police Department among others.

“Over the past several years we’ve seen an unfortunate divide in our great community,” Gribbin said. “I’ve worked diligently to build relationships with many members of the community in order to return to a place of civility and respect.”

Elena Guttieri

Guttieri is a middle school English teacher in the Syosset school district. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in English from Dowling College, along with a professional certificate in literacy from grades 5-12. She is trained in nonviolent crisis intervention and has earned the SEPTA distinguished service award.

A mother of four, she expressed concerns about aspects of the curriculum in the district.

“As a classroom teacher for over 20 years, I feel qualified to tell you what the goal of education should be — prepare our students with basic truths,” she said. “We must always teach English and traditional literature. We must always teach American history and patriotism while admitting our mistakes but always emphasize the accomplishments that have made us the greatest nation in the history of the world. We must teach mathematics in a way that is comprehensible so that even parents can help their children with their homework.”

Vlad Pean

The son of Haitian immigrants, Pean is a graduate of CUNY Baruch College, and has been in the information technology field for over 25 years. He said he hopes to bring his technological experience to the board. A father of three, Pean has spoken at Board of Education meetings about his daughter being bullied and subject to racial slurs.

“If I got on the school board I would never let what happened to her happen to her brother or sister or any other student,” Pean said.

“There have been a few bumps in the road but the one thing I learned is that Smithtown is full of compassionate people,” he added. 

John Savoretti

Savoretti earned a degree in marketing and finance from Adelphi University, and owns a real estate office in Nassau County and in Smithtown.

He has been active in the PTA, Little League, and was a Cub Scout leader. He said his strength on the board has been his community involvement. He counted security as one of his chief accomplishments 

“I don’t know why it took so long but we finally have security on the table for Smithtown,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done. It’s scary but it’s true, and my goal now is education.”


When asked about security, Craine said he thinks the district needs to take further precautions for open events such as Field Day and the Halloween Parade, and institute safety drills. De Bello said that the district should ensure everyone is on the same page as to armed security, as well as combat bullying and ensure students feel welcome. 

Gribbin pointed to the security booths outside of the secondary schools and improvements to the vestibules enter the buildings, as well as the implementation of armed guards and improvements to district mental health services. Guttieri said cameras should be increased in the schools, and there should be an anonymous reporting app. She also noted a wellness room leadership students are implementing. 

Pean agreed that there should be improvements to technology, and that there should be drills for students, while making is clear the school is there to protect them. Savoretti said some improvements could be made to cameras, and that it’s important to teach students to respect each other.

Civility on the board 

When the complaint filed by Wontrobski-Ricciardi was referenced, De Bello said it’s important to bring respect and build consensus, also talking out disagreements while acknowledging politics has made its way to the board.

Gribbin said that “disagreements and disrespect” are two different things. The accusations against him were “an unsuccessful coordinated attempt to really try to discredit my character.” Guttieri said she was concerned about the treatment of female board members and
encouraged respectful discourse.

Pean said that even now at board meetings, he goes up to members with whom he disagrees to try to understand where they are coming from.

Savoretti said the board has been “a boys’ club” for too long, and he would like to
see more women elected.

The district’s 2023-24 budget is also up for approval

Ward Melville High School. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Mallie Kim

The Three Village Board of Education has three seats up for grabs this year and six candidates looking to fill them, including three newcomers, one incumbent and two making repeat bids for seats.

The board candidates, profiled below in ballot order, faced an audience of more than 100 online and a large gathering in person at the Setauket firehouse on Main Street during a Three Village Civic Association meet-the-candidates session Monday, May 1. Questions posed on behalf of the civic by Herb Mones were answered by the candidates about a variety of topics, including the district’s strengths and weaknesses, school security, diversity, equity and inclusion, along with district transparency, communication and their own resumes. 

The candidates were due to face questions from the community once again Monday, May 8, but the event was postponed for reasons not provided to the public. The meet the candidates night hosted by the PTA is rescheduled to Friday, May 12 and will be live-streamed on the district’s website.

Voting for board trustees will take place at Ward Melville High School Tuesday, May 16, together with the vote to approve next year’s $230.9 million budget from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

A short budget presentation at the civic meeting was made by Jeffrey Carlson, deputy superintendent. In order to stay within the district’s 2.65% tax levy increase cap mandated by the state, the district is cutting 30 full-time positions. 

Superintendent Kevin Scanlon said at the board’s budget hearing May 3 that at least half of those positions will likely be at the elementary level, and he added by email that though every school will see teaching positions cut, the district can’t provide specifics at present as the adjustments are ongoing. 

At the same budget hearing, Scanlon dismissed what he called “false rumors” that class sizes will skyrocket to over 30 in elementary classes, and referred to a chart in the budget presentation that lays out the maximum allowable averages for class sizes in each elementary grade. He compared next year’s projected averages to those of this year and the pre-COVID 2018-19 school year. The biggest projected jump is in fifth grade, which should see an average of 23 students in each section across the schools. There were 21 fifth graders per class on average in 2018-19, and 20 this year.

The superintendent also mentioned some high school classes currently have 15 or fewer students. “We can’t afford to do that anymore,” he said. “That is not fiscally responsible, and we must tighten the belt in those areas.”

All of the board candidates at the civic meeting raised concerns over the budget, an issue of community interest as the district has been working to recalibrate to account for declining enrollment and increasing costs. The candidates also agreed increased transparency from the board would benefit Three Village residents.

Karen Roughley

Roughley, mom of two teens in the district, said she wants to maintain the current quality of staff and student experience for the future. To do that, she said, “we must be taking a close look at the budget to ensure that the district will be financially sustainable for years to come.”

Roughley spent her career working in corporate communications, business continuity and crisis management for an investment bank. Since staying home with her children, she has served in many volunteer positions in the district, including as president for multiple-campus parent teacher associations as well as for the Special Education PTA. She was on the reopening task force during the COVID-19 pandemic and the districtwide Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Committee, among others. At present, she sits on New York State’s parent advisory committee for the Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures.

She has publicly advocated on many issues she feels are important for Three Village students, including later secondary start times and the policy nicknamed “do no harm,” which only allows state Regents exam scores to be factored into classroom grades if the scores do not lower the grades. The board recently extended this policy for an additional year and is planning to look into whether or not to make the change permanent.

Roughley, whose two children have received special education services, is passionate about inclusion and diversity, and believes the DEI committee could do more to include the special education population, and also to prevent bullying on district campuses.

As an independent candidate, Roughly said she supports community involvement in major decisions, especially divisive decisions.

When asked about the idea of putting armed guards on school campuses, Roughley made it clear she believes all stakeholders should be part of any discussion — teachers, parents and the community at large. “Part of being a board member is you’re an extension of the community,” she said. “It should not be a decision from anyone from the board without having community input first.”

Roughley also ran for a board seat in 2021 and is running on the same ticket as David McKinnon. 

David McKinnon

McKinnon, father of three and a 30-year-plus resident of Three Village, has a “longstanding interest in public education,” and indicated he is passionate about providing an independent voice on the school board. He made clear at the event that he, like Roughley, was not taking endorsements or campaign support from any lobbying group, referring to the fact that all the current board members won their elections supported by the Three Village Teachers Association.

McKinnon, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Stony Brook University, has served on the districtwide DEI and budget advisory committees, and is a founding member of the Three Village Parents Alliance, through which he has advocated to improve Three Village schools in light of what he called “remarkably bad statewide education outcomes” in New York education, generally. He expressed specific concern about elementary math and literacy education.

“The community — us — deserves an independent voice on how our district is run,” he said. 

“This is not a partisan issue, this is solely about effective management. My goal in running is to create a school board that represents everyone.”McKinnon said he believes the board should rely heavily on the community for decisions about curriculum and running the schools. One of McKinnon’s concerns, though, is bullying. “I don’t feel that the DEI committee was serious in its approach to bullying,” he said. “You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn if you’re scared.”

On the topic of armed security guards, McKinnon worried that a large-presence, visible security also takes a toll. “There is a downside to all this security in the kids’ lives,” he said. “It makes them less willing to take risks, more likely to have emotional problems, and so this has to be balanced.”

He said school shootings are a tricky issue to address due to the suicidal motivations of the shooters themselves, one that armed guards alone won’t solve. He suggested reintroducing ethics education at the elementary level and gave a vote of confidence to the district’s security and safety coordinator, Jack Blaum, and his efforts over the years to make school buildings secure.

This is McKinnon’s third bid for a seat on the board, after running in 2020 and 2021.

Kristen Gironda

Gironda, who grew up in the Three Village district, said serving on the board would be a way to give back to the community for the quality of her education — a quality she said she wants to help uphold as she is raising her two children here as well. She is a middle school teacher in the Shoreham-Wading River school district, though she has also taught several elementary school grades, and has worked with special education students and English language learners over her 23 years as a teacher.

Gironda and fellow first-time candidate Michele Siegel are sisters, and both are endorsed by the Three Village Teachers Association.

Gironda said the biggest challenge in the district now is “resolving these issues with the budget while simultaneously trying to do what is in the best interest of our students’ well-being and health, with initiating a later start time and simultaneously reconfiguring the schools — and doing that in a fiscally responsible way.”

She has held several volunteer positions in the community, including as a trustee on the board of Play Groups School, and as vice president of the PTA at Minnesauke Elementary School. Also, she was on the reopening task force for the district during the COVID-19 pandemic, and served on the DEI committee for Minnesauke. She has coached for Stony Brook Soccer Club and was recently elected to the board of the Three Village Swim Club.

Gironda said she is not opposed to armed guards, but would take into account the expertise of the district safety team and local law enforcement. She said, after reviewing the district’s safety plan and speaking to Blaum, “I felt with full confidence that I was sending my children to school each day and that they were safe — that every precaution was being taken to protect our children and our staff by our security team.” 

She also said that the board could do better to find out what community members are thinking. “One thing that I think we could improve on is seeking out those voices that maybe aren’t being represented, figuring out who those people are,” she said. “We can work to have a more open and transparent and ongoing dialogue so people feel comfortable sharing their opinions, their views, their thoughts.”

Gabriela Alvanos

Alvanos, a 16-year resident of Three Village, said she would like to bring her particular experience to bear in addressing bullying and inclusiveness issues in the district. Her two elementary-aged children both receive special education services. She is the founder of NuPrisma, an organization that empowers individuals with disabilities, and works with businesses and communities to create more accessible and inclusive environments.

“I am here to be in service of all of our students, whether they are part of the English language learners program like I was, or part of special education like my children are, or general education or the gifted program,” she said. “Every student, regardless of their background or ability, should have access to opportunity that builds, supports and challenges them to excel in their learning and that empowers them to live and integrate in society with dignity.”

Alvanos, the third independent candidate, said she believes it is time to move from awareness of DEI issues to practical implementation of inclusion, down to the classroom level. She also cautioned that though many efforts are well meant, sometimes DEI programming can be implemented in a way that unintentionally increases bias.

She mentioned after the event that one issue that spurred her to run this year was concern over sixth graders moving up to middle school — she said she wants to be on the board to make certain the district puts social and emotional supports in place to aid the transition to secondary school for children at that age.

Alvanos said she is in favor of well-trained, vetted armed security only on the perimeter of school campuses — not inside school buildings. She also supports making the “do no harm” policy permanent.

Dr. Jeffrey Kerman

Kerman, the only incumbent in the group, has served 17 years on the board — including two years as president. He said he wants to continue serving to keep the district “as good as it is” and even help make it better. Kerman told the audience, live and online, that he serves out of gratitude for the district educating and preparing his two sons to succeed in society. Both received special education services, he said, and both became honors students in high school and college. “Our district did wonderfully with them,” he said. “I want to pay back how great they did with my sons. It was wonderful.”

Kerman, a dentist, praised the district and spoke of ways the board has served the community. “We’re always planning and always looking forward to making things better,” he said, pointing to this school year’s strategic planning commission that culminated in a survey to narrow down which restructuring plan stakeholders preferred. 

The board recently charged the administration with in-depth research to see what the costs and logistics would be, should the board adopt the plan. “We always try and get information from our community, from our parents, from our teachers, from our administrators, so that we on the board can make the best informed decisions that can help the district,” he said.

On the topic of school safety and armed guards, Kerman pointed out that Three Village has served as a model for Suffolk County in implementing school safety procedures. “We are very, very strong as far as our safety goes for our students,” he said, adding that the board has been discussing the pros and cons of armed guards carefully.

Michele Siegel

Siegel, mother of two elementary-aged students in the district, said she and her firefighter husband are proud to raise their kids in the district where they both grew up. “I feel passionate about giving back to the community that has helped shape the person I am today,” she said. “I’d be incredibly honored to be able to represent the voices of our entire district to make informed decisions.”

She called herself a “numbers and facts individual,” and is the associate director of research for a media company, with experience applying evidence-based strategies and managing budgets, teams and contracts. Siegel, alongside Kerman and her sister Gironda, is supported by the teachers union.Siegel previously served as president of the board at Play Groups School, and has coached for Stony Brook’s intramural soccer teams and is a team manager for the Stony Brook LGN travel soccer program. She also mentors students at her alma mater, Muhlenberg College of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

When asked about armed guards in schools, Siegel said if she were elected, she would request a meeting with Blaum at the district and law enforcement professionals “to understand every factor that would have to be considered and how it may integrate and align with the existing overall emergency plan — the emotional well-being and physical safety of our students and staff is a priority.”

She added that she would come into a trustee position open to learning. “I do not know the answer to every single question,” she said. “It’s for me to reach out and understand the experiences of everyone in this community to make informed decisions.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine, center, left, and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, center, right, visited the North Country Administration Center in Stony Brook to announce the winners of the 2023 T-Shirt Design Competition for Sidewalks for Safety. Photo from the Town of Brookhaven

By Mallie Kim

Three Village Central School District Board of Education unanimously approved a $230.9 million budget for the 2023-24 school year, paving the way for a community vote on May 16. 

The board gave its approval of the budget — a 3.07% increase — at a meeting Wednesday, April 12. 

The proposed budget stays within the district’s state-mandated maximum 2.65% tax levy increase cap, and therefore requires only a simple majority for community approval.

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Carlson, who leads the budget process, said due to increasing costs, the administration needed to cut $4.7 million to stay within the tax cap. 

The district’s transportation costs will jump by nearly $600,000 for next year, and salaries and benefits at current staffing levels would have increased by more than $9 million. 

A plan to cut 30 full-time staff positions accounts for the majority of the cuts, and the rest came from belt-tightening.

“We went through all of the budget codes, all of the supplies, equipment and contracted services … and we came up with $1.6 million in reductions,” Carlson said. “And I can tell you not everybody’s happy about that, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Shari Fontana, a representative from the Budget Advisory Committee — a group of parents, students, community members, board members and district employees — spoke in support of the budget.

“The BAC has seen that during these very difficult economic times, our district has always kept the goal of filling the educational, social and emotional needs of our children as their main priority,” Fontana said, noting that the many presentations the committee heard from the district made clear that Three Village is working toward increasing fiscal stability. 

“We realize that no budget will ever be perfect, but our district is truly doing the very best it can under the circumstances,” she added.

Fontana said the committee recommended that the district convenes next year’s Budget Advisory Committee earlier in the year and provide more specific information, down to the line items and dollar amounts, of each topic presented. 

She reported the committee urged prioritizing later secondary school start times, with the board also taking a more forward-looking approach when hiring in light of the decreasing enrollment projections.

“We know that hiring is easy, but reducing staff is not,” Fontana said.

Restructuring tabled, for now

The Board of Education also decided to table a vote to adopt a district restructuring plan, over lack of data on what it would cost, and because it does not address concerns that secondary school start times are too early. 

The plan, which was the clear preference among options presented in a recent community survey, would move sixth graders and ninth graders up to middle school and high school, respectively. 

Currently the junior high schools start at 7:40 a.m. and Ward Melville High School begins at 7:05 a.m., and without a change to those start times, sixth graders and ninth graders would begin school even earlier than their current schedules require. 

District elementary schools, where sixth grade classes are currently housed, begin at 8:43 a.m. or 9:25 a.m.

None of the survey options included cost impact information, and this uncertainty gave some board members pause. 

“I would also like the administration to move forward to give the board and give the community information on: Can this work? If it can work, how much would it cost?” said board vice president Vincent Vizzo. 

“At the same time, give us the figures also for the delayed start time, because right now that’s a health issue.”

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon agreed changing start times needs to be prioritized, but added that any delay in adopting a restructuring plan could make it harder to enact any changes by the original target school year of 2024-25. 

Restructuring “is not a matter where it’s dire, where we need to get it done immediately,” Scanlon said. “I do think the start time is dire and that does need to be addressed as soon as possible.”

Scanlon estimated the administration could figure out by September the information the board is requesting on cost and plausibility of the restructuring plan with start time changes dovetailed in.

Sidewalks For Safety prizewinners

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) made cameo appearances at the meeting to present awards to Ward Melville students who won a T-shirt design contest for Sidewalks For Safety. 

This is a local advocacy group working to get more sidewalks installed in critical places around the community, primarily for pedestrian safety — especially for Three Village students walking to schools and bus stops — but also to promote healthier lifestyles and increase foot traffic for local businesses. 

Romaine and Kornreich, the competition judges, awarded first place to Melina Montgomery, second to Julie Yang and third to Zoe Xiao; Lila Dabrowski and Rebecca Fazio each received an honorable mention for their art. Sidewalks For Safety printed the designs by Montgomery and Yang on bright, “safety green” T-shirts for use in an upcoming 5K walk/run on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14.

“Sidewalks are extremely important but they cost money, and we have to balance the budget,” Romaine said, adding that not everyone is a fan of sidewalks in more rural areas of Brookhaven. “But here in a busy community where a lot of children ride their bikes or walk to school, it is something that we want to do.”

Romaine also praised the winners for using artwork to engage in lobbying to “make sure the government does the right thing,” adding that his neighborhood does not have sidewalks.

 “I have to walk my two little dogs, and I could tell you I wish I had sidewalks, particularly when people go speeding by,” he said.