VOTING 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Eastport-South Manor Junior and Senior High School
The district is proposing a $93,502,384 budget that would increase spending by 0.62 percent, or $579,604, over the current $92,922,780 spending plan.
The tax levy would increase by 1.83 percent, from $53,217,393 to $54,191,936. This increase is under the state tax cap of 1.83 percent that is allowed so a simple majority is required to pass the budget.
The tax levy increase of 1.83 percent applies to residents in both Brookhaven and Southampton towns. Taxes on the average Brookhaven home would go up from $266.70 per $100 of assessed value to $271.59 per $100 of assessed value. Taxes on the average Southampton home would rise from $24 per $1,000 of assessed value to $24.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The proposed budget calls for layoffs of 75 employees, including 22 teachers. District officials have announced they plan to have larger secondary classes and reduced bus transportation.
The proposed budget would also call for teacher step increases ranging from 0.6 percent to 4.6 percent.
The district does not have enough state aid to maintain existing programs.
CANDIDATES: Six candidates are running for two at-large seats, each carrying a three-year term. The candidates are Larry Brown Jr., Christine Burst, Marion Diener, Kaitlyn Gambina, Tara Mazovec and Danielle Warsaw. Incumbents Ginny Churchin and Kenneth Cooke are not seeking reelection.
Larry Brown Jr.
BACKGROUND: Brown, 57, of Manorville, is a commercial projects construction supervisor. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for school board two years ago. Brown graduated from Eastport High School in 1979, before Eastport merged with the South Manor district. He is the Manorville Fire Department commissioner, and his son attends Eastport-South Manor High School.
ISSUES: Brown said his business experience would help the district resolve its fiscal issues. He said he would seek to make spending more efficient. “They need somebody with a business background,” Brown said. “Everybody’s concentrated on the administrators, teachers, classes. You have to run this as a business.” He said he thinks the district depleted its reserve funds by paying contractors and former employees.
District officials, he said, “touched the reserves without being able to put it back in quick enough.” He said the district should consider seeking grants for solar and wind-energy equipment, which could be part of science classes while also reducing energy costs. Brown said he regretted the loss of 75 jobs and the plan to increase class sizes, but said the district must “streamline” services. “My opinion is you have to go back to the unions and renegotiate some of those positions,” he said. “It’s too late for this budget now . . . You’re not going to save these jobs.” He said district officials should communicate better with the community. “I think you need to be a little bit more transparent with the people,” he said. “As a board member, you need to sell what you’re doing for the school board.”
BACKGROUND: Burst, 40, of Eastport, is a Southampton Town police officer and former teacher. She is making her first run for the school board. She graduated from Hampton Bays High School in 1996. Burst received a bachelor of science degree in speech pathology from James Madison University and a master’s degree in elementary education from Long Island University. Her sister, Tara Mazovec, also is running for a school board seat.
ISSUES: Burst said she worries about the district’s fiscal problems and their impact on those losing their jobs. “I know how hard it is to get a job, and it’s even harder on Long Island to get a teaching job,” she said. She said she is frustrated by officials’ explanations for the problems. “We haven’t really gotten any answers,” she said. “They blame the previous administration.”
She has written to state legislators seeking help with the district’s finances. The district has limited opportunities for additional tax revenue because much land is within the pine barrens, where development is restricted, she said. “There’s no money,” Burst said. “Some people are already paying $25,000 a year in taxes. That’s the tough thing about this. There really aren’t answers. You need more money, but where are you going to get it from?” She also is concerned about increasing class sizes because it is harder for teachers to give students individualized attention.
“As a former teacher, especially at the elementary level, I definitely couldn’t imagine having nearly 30 students,” Burst said. She said some parents have offered to volunteer their time in classrooms. “I guess that’s one solution or one idea. But it’s a big fiscal mess. I just feel bad for the teachers and the kids,” she said. Burst said she is concerned about school safety but thinks the district’s greatest priority is hiring teachers. “I know some parents want armed guards but that’s going to cost more money, too,” she said. “I’d rather see more teachers in the classroom rather than armed guards.”
BACKGROUND: Diener, 68, of South Manor, is a retired preschool teacher who served eight years on the South Manor board of education before the district merged with Eastport in 2003. Her grown children attended district schools. Diener received an associate degree in early childhood education from Suffolk County Community College.
ISSUES: Diener said she is “very concerned” about the district’s finances, adding officials must take a hard look at how services are delivered. “I think we need to look under every rock to help the taxpayer and give the children what they need,” she said. “The district must become financially stable.” As an example, Diener said reducing the district’s nine-period school day to eight periods would save up to $1.1 million.
She said the district is hurt by development restrictions on land in the pine barrens, which in turn limits property tax revenue. “We can’t build here because we have to protect the environment and the groundwaters,” she said. “What kind of compensation do we get for that?” She thinks the district should receive payments in lieu of taxes for land where development is restricted. Diener said 75 people losing their jobs is “heartbreaking. I’d like to know, what are these people going to do?” She noted that the Eastport and South Manor districts had merged to help Eastport avoid bankruptcy, but now the district faces a fiscal crisis. “Taxpayers need to be able to afford to live in the district, and students need to get what they need,” she said. “I believe that my experience on the other [South Manor] board of education gives me the experience to know what to do . . . I really believe I can make a difference.”
BACKGROUND: Gambina, 18, of Mastic, is a graduating senior at Eastport-South Manor High School. She plans to study business next fall at Suffolk County Community College. She has an after-school job as a tutor and has volunteered at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport and Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts.
ISSUES: Gambina said she is running because she thinks the school board would benefit from having a young person to provide a student’s point of view. “I wanted to help out . . . because I do think we need a younger perspective on things,” she said. “Since I have been through the system and gone to the schools, I think it would be beneficial.” She said communication between teachers, administrators, students and community should be improved, and she would try to “just help people be more active in the community and help teachers speak out on issues in the schools.”
She said she is concerned about the district’s finances, adding her goal would be “to help us get out of this mess and try to save some of these programs . . . Some of them were saved, but a lot of teachers are still losing their jobs and that’s going to affect students.” She said school has been “a little stressful” for students amid the district’s problems. Gambina said class sizes already are too large and she opposes further increases when teachers are laid off. “The class sizes are pretty big to begin with, so I don’t think that’s going to help anything,” she said, adding one of her classes has 30 students. “It’s harder to get that one-on-one time” with teachers. Gambina said she has been “pretty inspired” by student rallies around the country in recent months since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. “We have a pretty strong generation, and I think we should use that to change the world,” Gambina said. “Even though we’re not as experienced, we are making a difference.”
BACKGROUND: Mazovec, 42, of South Manor, is manager of technology literacy programs at Stony Brook University. She is making her first run for the school board. She graduated from Hampton Bays High School in 1993. She has a bachelor of science degree in psychology and deaf education from Flagler College, and a master’s of science degree in instructional technology from LIU Post. Mazovec is a former member of the Manor Park Civic Association. Two of her three children attend Eastport-South Manor elementary schools; the third attends preschool. Her sister, Christine Burst, also is running for a school board seat.
ISSUES: Mazovec advocates for smaller class sizes, especially in kindergarten through second grade, adding one of her children is in a class with 27 students. “The whole first-grade class all have 26 to 28 kids in a class,” she said. “They don’t get the one-on-one attention they need at that young age.” Large classes don’t allow teachers enough time to pay attention to students, she said, adding downsizing the staff is “absolutely horrible.”
“I think the positions that have direct student contact should be looked at last and I don’t feel that’s being done,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to preserve programs and the way to preserve programs is to keep teachers.” Mazovec said she would lobby state officials for more state aid because property tax revenue is limited by pine barrens development restrictions. “We don’t have industrial real estate” to increase the district’s tax base, she said. “The reason why Long Island has clean water is because of the pine barrens, and we don’t get compensated for that.”
BACKGROUND: Warsaw, 42, of Manor Park, is a librarian at the Connetquot Public Library. She is making her first run for the school board. She graduated from Bay Shore High School in 1993. Warsaw received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Stony Brook University and a master’s degree in library and information science from Florida State University. Her four children attend Eastport-South Manor elementary school.
ISSUES: Warsaw said she is running because of the district’s uncertain finances, and she plans to advocate for students “so they can have the exemplary programs that we’ve offered in the past.” She said students should be able to gain life experiences “in a safe and supportive environment.” “We’ve done a very good job of maintaining programs for next year,” Warsaw said.
“My concern is that we continue to offer these programs.” She said district administrators and the school board “have done a very good job of continuing our programs for the next school year.” She said no additional programs are needed. “I think the school district not only needs to be able to sustain all the programs that we have, but put money in reserve and I think putting money into our reserves is a problem for our district,” Warsaw said. “I would look at the budget and the staff to see where there’s redundancy, where there’s room to make adjustments without sacrificing the quality of the education of our students and the programs we can offer them.” She said she has spoken at school board meetings about seeking grants. “I would continue to look into grants and other ways that we can create some revenues,” she said.