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.
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, 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 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.