For the 10th straight year, the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District budget is under the tax levy.
According to the district’s newsletter, the 2021-22 budget will increase by 1.13 percent and has a tax levy increase of 0.75%. The savings is due to school reorganizations, which includes the Aug. 31 closings of Bellerose Avenue and Dickinson Avenue elementary schools.
Residents will also vote on two propositions. Proposition 2 is to establish a capital reserve fund not to exceed $20 million over a 10-year period. If the proposition is approved, there will be no tax implications. Proposition 3 will be to vote on altering the transportation boundaries. If approved, students in grades 6-8 will be able to take the bus if they live within a 0.75-mile limit as opposed to the current 1-mile limit. The boundary limits for grades 9-12 will change from the current 1.5-mile limit to a new 1.0-mile limit.
In the race for two open trustee seats on the board of ed, four candidates are running. The candidates shared information in biographies in the district newsletter that is also found on its website.
Incumbent and Syosset school district special education teacher, Buscareno has lived in the district for 46 years and has four children, three in college who graduated from the high school and one child in Northport Middle School.
In addition to attending board meetings regularly, she also attends PTA evening meetings and the Drug and Alcohol Task Force meetings. She also is a member of the Ocean Avenue, NMS, NHS PTA and SEPTA and sat on the NMS subcommittee and is currently the co-chair of the Audit Committee.
Buscareno said being a board member for the past three years and being an educator is an asset.
“The greatest asset an individual can bring as a board member is compassion, kindness and the ability to work with others to come to a consensus on the best possible decision,” she said. “Listening to different perspectives and allowing movement and growth is what allows a board to work together to make important decisions for all of our community.”
Regarding school closings, she lists them among the most pertinent issues facing the Northport-East Northport School District. She also wants to maintain strong dialogue with the community.
“We are looking to maximize our buildings’ usage while providing enhancements for our students in a cost-effective way,” she said. “Maintaining our buildings and making sure every space is well taken care of and safe for all children will always be a priority. School safety is essential. We must be prepared and well trained for any emergency situation.”
Buscareno said the district like many others is revisiting policies to ensure they are inclusive to all students.
A 50-year resident, Frey has three children in district schools. He was a coach with the Northport Youth Center Soccer from 2013-17 and a den leader with BSA Pack 400 East Northport from 2015-22. He’s also a team manager for Northport Cow Harbor United and from 2011-21 has served as a member of Dickinson Avenue PTA.
The retired NYPD captain believes his work experience will be an asset to the board.
“I served 23 years in the NYPD which taught me the value of critical thinking, diversity and problem-solving unforeseen challenges,” he said. “As a captain, I led people and formed relationships with community leaders and elected officials to achieve goals.”
If elected, Frey said he aims to create “policy that strives to maximize the talents of all students through inclusion.” He also aims to work on budgets that will enhance current district programs while being affordable to taxpayers.
The candidate said it may not be necessary to have as many brick-and-mortar assets currently and it’s important to reinvent building usage.
“The current review of building usage is an important undertaking,” he said. “As this community evolves, we must assess ways to achieve cost savings while continuing to enhance our student programs. We must be open to new ideas and solutions to achieve cost savings while growing our curriculum.”
A resident in the district for approximately 20 years, Taylor is planning to retire as a Northport-East Northport teacher next month. Her two daughters are graduates. She was a volunteer for the district’s Steering Committee and has served on several instructional committees. In addition, she has been in leadership with the United Teachers of Northport, a New York State United Teachers delegate and a New York State Teachers Retirement System delegate.
“I’m a problem-solver with an open mind,” she said. “I take little at face value. Rather, I listen and then research. I’m candid and put the needs of my students and their families first. I am unafraid of discourse and will continue to work tirelessly for our families as I have done for the 20 years I’ve worked for our wonderful district.”
In addition to the two elementary schools closing, Taylor said another issue the district faces is “the reality of the LIPA lawsuit with a settlement.” She would also like to see the district hold “councils” instead of having committees. Taylor said she feels that while committees have selfless volunteers, in the end, the decisions still rely on administration.
“Perhaps a policy could be crafted to return to the prior practice to promote earnest collaboration,” Taylor said. “It is becoming increasingly challenging to provide the quality of education that the Northport community expects, given increasing costs and the 2% tax cap limiting the ability to raise local revenue.”
She also said there should be a pause in excess spending with homeowners struggling to make ends meet, and with the LIPA and COVID-19 economic fallout.
A nearly 30-year resident of the Northport-East Northport area, Topel is a special education advocate and founder/director of K.I.D.S. Plus, which provides sports programs and therapeutic recreation programs for children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Both of her children have attended schools in the district, even though her son with autism did receive a high school education outside of the district.
Topel has been outspoken about the closing of the two elementary schools and she said she’s not afraid to speak up.
“My beliefs are my own which I develop after listening to all sides, especially the community that placed me on the board,” she said. “I do not waiver in the face of bullying, smearing and grandstanding.”
Topel has also been a Northport Rotary Club member and in 2010 was honored in the Times of Northport and East Northport as Women of the Year. She is involved in various community organizations including Drug and Alcohol Task Force member, founder/administrator of Just For Kicks Soccer Club, chairperson for the Northport Youth Soccer League, past PTA president of Norwood Avenue Elementary School, past special education chairperson for Suffolk Region PTA and past SEPTA president.
Topel lists the closings of the elementary schools and the raising of the budget among the top of her concerns as well as transparency from the superintendent and BOE. She also seeks for community communications to be made part of the public record.
“The board and the superintendent could be more transparent and should effectively communicate with the community, before, during and after meetings,” she said. “During public participation at a board meeting, board members should answer questions asked of them by the community.”
The budget vote and board of education trustees election will take place Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are three voting locations in the Northport school district. Those living south of the centerline of Pulaski Road vote at Fifth Avenue Elementary School; residents living north of the centerline of Pulaski Road and south of the centerline of Route 25A vote at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School; and voters who live north of the center of Route 25A vote at William J. Brosnan School.