Board approves 2019-20 district budget
The Port Jefferson School District named the first female superintendent to the post Tuesday, and to top it off, she’s a nine-year Port Jeff resident.
At the board of education meeting April 9, the board named current Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Jessica Schmettan, 42, as the new superintendent effective Nov. 1 this year.
“I’m a resident, a taxpayer, and I have two kids in school,” Schmettan said of her connection to the village. “I’m just so excited to be chosen.”
The upcoming superintendent beat out a field of over 20 candidates, many of whom Kathleen Brennan, the board president, said were highly qualified for the position.
“Just because she was an inside candidate, she was not tossed any softballs,” said Brennan.
Schmettan holds a bachelor of science in special education from Long Island University, a master’s degree in instructional technology from the New York Institute of Technology, and School District Leader certification from the College of
Before coming to Port Jeff in 2016, she began her career as an educator in the Three Village Central School District. She also has experience with special education from the Roosevelt Union Free School District and United Cerebral Palsy of Long Island. She went on to work for seven years in the Sachem Central School District as administrative assistant for instructional support and programming and later assistant superintendent for elementary curriculum and instruction.
Though there was one other female interim superintendent in the past, Schmettan is the first full-time woman appointed to the position
“It’s exciting for my daughter so she can see what she’s capable of,” the upcoming superintendent said.
In August 2018, current Port Jeff superintendent Paul Casciano declared his intention to step down from his position. In the following months, continuing into the new year, the district worked with Suffolk County BOCES in the process of finding a new superintendent. Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister said most of the costs to the district were from advertising in newspapers, including The New York Times. While he is still waiting for the bills to come back with precise amounts, he estimated the cost to be about $15,000 to $17,000 to the district.
While Casciano originally intended to stay until July, he extended that until Oct. 31 to aid in the transition.
“I’m so proud of Jessica as the first woman to be appointed to the head of schools in Port Jeff,” the current superintendent said. “She’s proved she has a deep knowledge of our core mission, teaching and learning.”
During the meeting, Brennan spoke directly to Schmettan. “One of the things you said in response to one of the questions you asked was you’re going to have to have courageous conversations. And that phrase struck me, and that kind of describes Port Jeff going forward, we are going to have to have a lot of courageous conversations.”
“I’m a resident, a taxpayer, and I have two kids in school.”
— Jessica Schmetta
Many of those conversations will revolve around the impact of the settlement with Brookhaven town and the Long Island Power Authority over the taxes levied on the Port Jefferson Power Station. The settlement agreement cuts LIPA’s taxes on the power station in half incrementally for the next eight years.
Schmettan said she plans to resurrect the budget advisory committee, so the public can get involved in the process of crafting future budgets. She expects the district will continue to see cuts and will have to make some difficult decisions, but she is optimistic about the future of the district, saying “we’re up to the challenge.”
Board adopts 2019-20 budget
The Port Jefferson school board has approved a budget that, while consolidating programs, will still see a small increase. Along with the budget, the board is asking residents to approve the use of capital reserves to fix sections of the high school and elementary school roofs.
The board approved a $43,936,166 budget April 9, a $46,354 and 0.11 percent increase from last year’s budget. The tax levy, the amount of funds the district raises from taxes has also gone up to $36,898,824, a $464,354 and 1.27 percent increase from last year, staying directly at the 1.27 percent tax cap. Officials said they had a lower tax cap this year due to a reduction in capital projects funded by general appropriations. If the district pierced the tax cap, it would need 60 percent of residents to approve the budget come the May vote, rather than the normal 50 percent.
Leister said the district has slashed and consolidated a number of items, including professional development for staff, private transportation allocation, and a $142,000 reduction through scheduling and enrollment efficiencies for staff. The district has also cut the teacher’s retirement system by $25,000 and staff retirement system by $60,000. The biggest increases in budget came from health insurance for staff, increasing by approximately $555,580, and benefits, which increased by $408,480.
The district also plans to use $400,000 in the general fund budget to relocate the middle school office into an existing upstairs science classroom for what district officials said was security reasons.
Leister said the district should be creating a tax calculator for district residents to roughly calculate their school taxes. The program should be available up on the district website in about a week.
The board is also asking residents to vote on allowing the board to allocate funds from capital reserves, the funds built up over time from money unused by the end of each school year, to fix portions of the elementary school and high school roof, equaling $3,600,000.
The board will have its budget presentation May 14 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium before asking residents to vote on the budget May 21. Residents can vote from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.