Tags Posts tagged with "budget 2022-23"

budget 2022-23

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As votes were being counted in the Three Village Central School District for budget approval and board of education trustees on the night of May 17, the budget race was a close one.

At the end of the night, the 2022-23 budget of $224 million passed by 66 votes, 2,584-2,518. The new budget is $3.8 million more than last year’s contingency budget of $220.2 million, reflecting a 1.72% increase. The proposed tax levy is $165 million.

Last year, although 57.7% of taxpayers voted in favor of a $222.6 million budget — 2,286-1,677 — it failed to pass. The proposed 2021-22 budget pierced the 1.37% cap on the tax levy increase, necessitating a supermajority approval, or 60% of the vote.

TBR News Media asked readers how they voted on May 17 regarding the 2022-23 TVCSD budget.

Those who approved

Ian Farber, of East Setauket, and a member of the district’s budget advisory committee that was formed earlier this year, said he voted “yes.” He said he believes the district “made a good faith effort to increase the efficiency and efficacy of how our tax dollars are utilized.” He added he believed the committee helped facilitate that.

“While there is more work to be done, voting ‘no’ would not yield any positive outcomes,” he said. “Some in our community think that we operated this past year on contingency with no impact to the students and the instructional staff. While we fared better than other districts on contingency, some classes couldn’t be expanded and teachers that were previously dedicated to a specific school had to float between multiple buildings. The district was also prevented from paying back money into the reserves, putting us all at an increased fiscal risk.”

Farber said he felt if the district operated on a contingency budget for years in a row, it would erode the district’s educational institution.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, of South Setauket, also voted “yes,” saying that “the difference in taxes between the proposed budget and the contingency budget is minimal, and I think our schools have done an excellent job through several challenging years.”

She said addressing rising costs and making other changes is beyond the district level.

“If we want to address rising costs on Long Island, the way to do it is by looking at issues including the lack of affordable housing, health care benefits being tied to employment, and the fact that Long Island has over 120 school districts, which increases both cost and segregation,” she said. “Defunding our public schools, as some have advocated for, isn’t the way to reduce the cost of living in our region.”

She added that passing the New York Health Act would mean public sector benefits would no longer be part of school budgets.

Anne Chimelis, of Setauket, said this year as well as last she encouraged people to vote “yes.” She said having taught and lived in other school districts, she has witnessed when budgets are voted down, and she feels it doesn’t help the students. Voting a budget down is shortsighted, Chimelis said, and there are other ways to address it.

“The reality is your tax bill doesn’t really change that much when you vote down a budget, and things only get worse for your kids, for the district as a whole,” she said. “So, that’s not really the way to effect change in my opinion. There are many other ways to effect change.”

She applauded the formation of the budget advisory committee this year.

“I think having administrators, teachers, other people from the school community be part of that next year is a great idea, and I’m sure that in working together they can continue to find ways to spend money more efficiently without just summarily voting down a budget,” she said.

Chimelis said she wasn’t pleased that 4.5 nursing positions were being eliminated with the 2022-23 budget. The district’s decision was stated that the nurses were no longer needed due to the wake of declining COVID-19 infection rates. However, she said she wouldn’t vote down the budget for one issue.

For Farber, he would like the STEM program to be brought back to the elementary schools and expanded into STEAM to incorporate the arts.

“No budget is perfect, and 3V still has room to improve,” Farber said, despite his “yes” vote.

He added, “Continuing and expanding upon collaboration is how we improve.”

A ‘no’ vote

David McKinnon, who ran for school board in 2020 and 2021, was also a member of the budget advisory committee, which he said he believes made the process more transparent to the community but was not set up to constrain costs.

The East Setauket resident said he was disturbed that the teachers union, New York State United Teachers, injects themselves into local school district elections. According to NYSUT’s website, the “statewide union has a political fund-raising arm called VOTE-COPE.” The nonpartisan fund was established to coordinate “the voluntary contributions of members and supports NYSUT-endorsed candidates and campaign committees that are pro-public-education and pro-labor.”

McKinnon said, while he supports teachers and other workers, the campaign means more money is spent on advocating for residents to vote “yes” than “no.” NYSUT did not return requests for the amount of funds invested in the TVCSD election.

He said he believes “most people in the district want accountability on education and on spending” and that it would be best for residents’ decisions to be unaffected by a lobbyist group.

“Ideally decisions surrounding the schools would be made by the local community without external interference,” he said.

McKinnon added he believes with NYSUT getting involved that teachers may have a louder voice, when “there are multiple stakeholders,” students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff. He added he believes that the opinions of students and parents should be heard and balanced with the needs of teachers and administrators.

“Our school district is currently funded at close to the highest level in the nation on a cost per pupil basis, taking account of economies of scale related to school size,” he said. “Given this already very high level of funding, the fiscally responsible position is to keep the cost per pupil reasonably flat in terms of real dollars.”

McKinnon said with declining enrollment over more than a decade in the district there should be a zero budget increase.

“Instead, the budget has increased substantially over the last decade, except for last year,” he said.

Barbara Rosati, represents parents and educators through the group Three Village Parents Alliance, which has a Facebook page, a mailing list of nearly 200 residents and a website. She is also married to McKinnon. She said she voted “no,” and believes that just because she and others did so, it doesn’t mean they are unsupportive of the district or education.

Rosati said she and others believe the district’s core academic programs, especially at the elementary level, can be updated and improved. While she knows parents who have supplemented their children’s education through out-of-school tutoring or enrichment programs, she said it can be expensive and, for children, cumbersome.

She and other parents have also started a conversation with the district about “excessively early school start times,” and the TVPA group members are also concerned with growing property taxes, which they feel are due to excessive administrative costs.

“Yet, none of the tax increase on this year’s budget is aimed at addressing them,” she said. “After advocating for these issues, and closely following the district’s financial decisions, it would seem that this does not reflect a lack of funds but rather a lack of political will.”

She added, “Last year’s 0% tax increase budget could support all the existing programs, COVID-required extra instructional and noninstructional personnel, and also the addition of a few narrow interest programs.”

Marlo Dombroff, of East Setauket, also voted “no,” and she said she felt recommendations that the budget advisory committee made were not followed.

“When I evaluated the reasons for why the budget was to increase again, I couldn’t find a clear explanation of how the additional funds would directly benefit the students,” she said. “The budget continues to increase each year and it is almost imperceptible where those monies are going. As a parent, I don’t see any improvements in education. I had a child graduate last year who went through K-12, and I have a child now who is in 10th grade, who has been here also since kindergarten.”

As someone who has attended all board of education meetings, she feels changes and improvements suggested by parents have not been “put into place, regardless of heavy parent lobbying.” Dombroff said examples of needed improvements are to the elementary math classes and starting foreign language teaching in the elementary schools.

District’s statement

TVCSD Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich, who is retiring at the end of the school year, said in a statement the district was “thankful to the community for its participation in this year’s annual budget vote.”

“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all our stakeholders to ensure that the district maintains the robust and supportive educational program it provides for all students,” she said. “In recent years, specifically during the past few years of the pandemic, we were able to sustain and build upon our practices to meet this goal.”

Pedisich listed the district bringing students back to school full time and in person during the 2020-21 academic year and implementing “initiatives designed to support learners across all levels — from the youngest to our seniors — all while reducing costs through the consolidation of administrative positions and other operational efficiencies” among the district’s accomplishments in meeting its goals.

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By Chris Mellides

Ahead of the May 17 budget vote and board of education election, Northport-East Northport school district’s current trustees, along with a new contender, see a promising future for their community. 

Larry Licopoli

There are three open seats on the Northport-East Northport school board that will be filled later this month. Incumbents — current president Larry Licopoli, Allison Noonan and Thomas Loughran — have competition from Nassau County police officer Frank Labate. 

 Several issues are at play in the district from the Long Island Power Authority glide path woes, to declining student enrollment and unfinished learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the candidates said they are resolute in their student-centric focus.

“While one answer is to protect our fiscal ability to preserve our programs by balancing the LIPA glide path, declining enrollment, anticipated increases in state aid and potential expense side reductions, the essential answer for a board and community is to always keep our eyes on the prize — our students,” Licopoli said. 

The proposed 2022-23 budget is $177,856,084, which represents a budget-to-budget increase of 1.81%. The tax levy increase is 0.61%, which involves an additional sum to average taxpayers of $49.79. 

There have been no tax levy increases for the last two successive fiscal years, according to Licopoli. 

“This year’s 0.61% increase on the [proposed] levy includes very modest reductions relative to overall staffing and shifts resources focusing on student needs,” he said. “We accomplished this through a revised educational planning and budget protocol, adding more detail and transparency for the board and community to consider.”

A significant portion of the funds have been allocated to the maintenance of the district’s aging buildings. There is also a large emphasis being placed on educational and extracurricular opportunities, the continuity of World Languages from grade five into grade six, along with increased physical education staffing in the elementary schools.

Allison Noonan

Additionally, there will be an increased access to the district’s alternative high school Program of Resilient Teens Academy and a focus on students’ mental health through a partnership with Northwell Health. Educational and extracurricular opportunities are also being championed by the district. 

The budget also includes monies for continued instructional technology upgrades including interactive display panels in classrooms.

TBR conducted interviews with the four BOE candidates

Trustee Noonan said that she has had a very positive experience over the past year and is “excited to continue working on the board’s goals.” She, like the other board members, knows the importance of mental health when it comes to the district’s students and claims that a huge challenge facing the district is the students’ emotional well-being. 

“It will be imperative for us to offer a multilevel, interdisciplinary support system that includes an emphasis on educational and emotional wellness for all of our students for the foreseeable future,” Noonan said.    

Trustee Loughran believes in the effectiveness of the board and said that from “day one” — when he was sworn in — he “hit the ground running at 100 mph.” 

He also expressed the difficulties that he had to contend with when he became a board member, during which time he helped deal with a failing roof system at one of the district’s elementary schools, which resulted in the “complete reconstruction and relocation of two grade levels.”

Thomas Loughran

Loughran said he didn’t believe there were any problems with the budget.

“This budget is the right budget for our community,” he said. “It further enhances opportunities for students and provides resources to help bridge the gap left in so many students’ social-emotional development because of disruptions over the past two-and-a-half years.”

Labate said he is running because he wants to see changes made to his district. The 30-year-old police officer is a current East Northport resident and is a father of two. He said that the main reason for running in the BOE election is because he was asked by local residents to do so.

Northport parents didn’t think that their views were being represented in the district., so the young candidate has taken the initiative. “I believe in my values, and I believe that they are worth fighting for right now,” he said. 

Labate, who if elected will be the youngest trustee to ever serve on the board, recalled a recent BOE meeting where Licopoli sided with the New York State mask mandate for all students. Labate chose to “disagree with that moral choice.”

“Never again should children suffer because our local leaders didn’t stand up for what was right,” Labate said. “I will deliver a devotion to our children as our highest moral standard, and the values of this community will guide me in that pursuit.”

Frank Labate

As a law enforcement officer, Labate said that he deals with New York State law every day and firmly understands policy and how it shapes the community. 

“We learn in the police academy that if you find yourself in a fight, you never give up,” he said. “I will never give up when it comes to protecting our children and affording them the educational experience that they deserve.”

Still, Noonan reflected all the candidates’ agreement that Northport school district is well placed when she said, “I think the future for Northport is going to be with the new families moving to our community because of the school district’s opportunities and our willingness to embrace everyone in our community and schools — by creating a culture of care and dignity for all.”

Voting information

Voting will be held on Tuesday, May 17, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at three different polling locations. For details see district website.

File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Amanda Olsen

Kings Park Central School District residents will vote on the 2022-23 budget and select two school board trustees when they head to the polls Tuesday, May 17.

Trustees Pam DeFord and Dan Tew are not seeking reelection, so two seats are up for election. These seats are at large, meaning voters can select any two candidates.

The budget for next year is $102.24 million, an increase of 1.94% over last year. This will result in a 2.99% tax levy increase, or $23.39 more per year for the average taxpayer. This includes a state aid package of approximately 19%. 

The budget allocates additional mental health resources, including an additional high school social worker and a regional behavioral health center for students. It maintains all sports, extracurricular clubs and activities. The funding also ensures each elementary school has a full-time librarian. It increases cybersecurity protections, internet filtering and security cameras, and supports the vehicle fleet, including the purchase of two new large gas buses, one smaller gas bus and one dump truck. 

There are also some cuts. From a staffing/teacher perspective, the district is reducing by three elementary teachers and three secondary teaching equivalents. This reduction is to adjust for declining enrollment, according to the district. 

Douglas Cerrato

Douglas Cerrato

Cerrato became more involved with the school district during remote learning. He is a financial adviser in Huntington village and this is his first time running for the school board. Cerrato is seeking more transparency in how the board is run and interacts with the community. He believes his experience and understanding of budgets will be an asset to the board. The candidate views himself as impartial and unencumbered by relationships with outside organizations. 

According to Cerrato, Kings Park has too many administrators when compared to neighboring districts serving more children.

“Enrollment is down 30 percent [over the last 10 years], but [in the same period] the budget is up 30%,” Cerrato said.

He outlined a plan to streamline administration by possibly eliminating positions and redirecting those funds.

“The goal is to reduce the administrative budget by $1 million, and redistribute the funds saved to front-line employees,” he said.

Cerrato also wants to form resident-led and parent-led steering committees that will increase community input and have a net-neutral or net-positive impact on the budget. He hopes to bring the average cost to educate a student [$28,411] down to the county average [$25,638] and reduce reliance on state aid. He plans to follow the desires of the community when it comes to mandates and divisive curriculum decisions.

Jaime Lelle

Jaime Lelle

Lelle is the mother of three boys, a parent and alumnus of Kings Park school district. She has been in an administrative role as the pediatric nurse educator of Stony Brook Children’s for the last two years and was a bedside pediatric nurse for the previous 14 years. She believes this career has made her a strong advocate and an effective listener. Her job often involves performing reviews and revisions of policies and procedures. 

“I believe I can provide those same skills to the Kings Park board of education creating a more just and fair representation of the community at large, while providing the appropriate checks and balances in decision making, ” she said. 

Lelle believes the biggest issue with the district currently is transparency and representation. Some of her plans to address this need are developing an electronic system to gather feedback from the parents and community, and establishing policies focusing on communication would provide more transparency and address issues in an appropriate timeframe.

When it comes to the budget, Lelle wants to reduce the scope of the administrative costs.

“I believe the budget can be reduced with a smart strategic comprehensive review with either a net-neutral or net-positive impact on the students and community,” she said. “Looking at the budget and district through a lens of the private sector will bring in negotiation and competition by going out to market, therefore reducing the costs and overall budget.”

Patrick Hanley

Patrick Hanley

 Hanley has resided in the district for 15 years, has three children attending schools in the district and is section manager in electric operations for Con Edison. 

“I welcome the opportunity to help progress the district,” he said. “This would be a meaningful way to serve my community and make a difference.” 

In his current position at Con Edison, Hanley has been heavily involved in budgets, personnel and general management, skills he believes will benefit the district going forward. 

“There are some communication gaps that need to be addressed,” he said. “The last couple of years have been a real challenge. We need to connect with people on a personal level and get out beyond the board meeting.”

To that end, he said he plans to reach out to and engage with parents and civic organizations in the district for input. 

When addressing the budget, Hanley said he planned to be sensitive.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “We need responsible management to make sure we get the most value.”

Shala Pascucci

Shala Pascucci

She has been a resident of Kings Park school district for 22 years and has two children in Kings Park schools. She holds a master’s degree in social work and is both a social worker and a certified secondary education teacher.

Pascucci is a founding member of Kings Park Advocates for Education, a board member of the Smithtown Youth Bureau and sits on the New York State Allies for Public Education and Long Island Opt Out steering committees. 

She is also co-president of the Kings Park Robotics Club.

Pascucci was not available for an interview before press time. According to her campaign website, she “started advocating for whole-child learning almost 10 years ago because I hated the idea that education was moving in the direction of treating kids like they were no more than standardized test scores.”

Her website also states, “My goal is to help the community and our district heal, regroup and focus back on our kids and their education.”

Voter information

Cerrato and Lelle are campaigning together, so are Hanley and Pascucci.

Voting takes place on May 17 between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. at Kings Park High School back gymnasium, 200 Route 25A.

Candidates are vying for two seats on the Board of Education.  Each seat is for a term of three years, commencing July 1, 2022. Voters registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections can vote on the budget and candidates.