6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Sinai Elementary School.
The district proposes a $59,272,525 budget for 2017-18, a 2.1 percent increase from the current $58,054,485. The tax levy would increase 1.7 percent, from $38,691,900 to $39,350,460.
This increase is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget.
School taxes on the average single-family home would increase by 1.7 percent, from $8,808 to $8,958.
The proposed budget includes unspecified estimated salary increases for teachers subject to contract negotiations, and there is an approximate 2 percent average step increase scheduled for teachers. Current programs and staffing levels would be maintained.
- District website: mtsinai.k12.ny.us
Incumbents Edward Law, Robert Sweeney and Peter Van Middelem and candidate Michael McGuire are seeking three at-large seats. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Law, 54, a management consultant, has lived in the district 18 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a master of business administration degree in finance from the University of Notre Dame and has taken courses toward a master of public health at Hofstra University. He is part of the alumni representative committee for Columbia University. He was team manager with Three Village Soccer, a board member and coach with Mount Sinai Youth Soccer and an assistant coach with North Shore Little League. He has three children attending district schools. He is currently the board’s vice president and is seeking his third term.
ISSUES: The district needs to continue its conservative budgeting in light of the state tax cap, Law said, and to keep looking for efficiencies. His finance and business background will help with that, he noted, and a rolling five-year budget forecast will keep the budget process transparent. “It helps us maintain fiscal prudence and plan long-term for the benefit of the community and taxpayers,” he said. Budget increases have been modest, and the district has added full-day kindergarten, Advanced Placement classes, a science research elective and new vocational training, he said.
BACKGROUND: McGuire, 38, an accountant, has lived in the district for three years. His brother is a teacher in the Mattituck-Cutchogue district, and his sisters-in-law teach in the Shoreham-Wading River and Eastport-South Manor districts. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. McGuire has a bachelor’s degree and a master of business administration with a concentration in accountancy, both from St. Joseph College. He is starting to work on a law degree at Touro Law School, and is president of the veterans law society there. McGuire has two children, one in district schools and a 1-year-old. He is a former PAL football coach in Rocky Point and a former religious education teacher at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Rocky Point.
ISSUES: If the district continues on its current financial path it will need to cut programs, teaching positions and raise taxes, McGuire said. To fight that, he said he would use his accounting background and look for cutting internal waste and ways to raise revenue. “It needs a fresh set of eyes,” he said. “We need to look internally for small efficiencies to save money, like consolidating and condensing mailings. If you don’t talk about it, how do you prevent it from happening? We need to act now before we are forced to act in the future.”
BACKGROUND: Sweeney, 58, a district resident for 15 years, is an attorney and managing partner of a law firm. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Stony Brook University and his law degree at St. John’s University. He was a Cubmaster and on the leadership council for Boy Scout Troop 390 in Mount Sinai. He has three children attending district schools, along with two who graduated from another district. He has been on the board for six years and served as president for five years. He is seeking his third term.
ISSUES: The district’s challenge remains drafting sound budgets in an era of uncertain state aid and budget caps, Sweeney said, while still providing excellence in education to all students. It has done that in the five years he was board president, he said, and added programs such as full-day kindergarten, reading, math and music teachers and additional Advanced Placement classes. “We’re a very residential community and we can’t just continue to draw money unless there’s a real need,” he said.
Peter Van Middelem
BACKGROUND: Van Middelem, 50, a lifelong resident, is a retired New York City firefighter who does auditing, volunteer work and mentors children. His wife is treasurer for the Port Jefferson school district. He has a bachelor’s degree from Dowling College and studied toward a master’s degree in taxation from LIU Post. He is a commissioner in the Mount Sinai Fire District, president of the Mount Sinai Lacrosse League, coaches boys and girls K-6 youth program lacrosse, and coaches the Yellow Jackets lacrosse team. Two children are in district schools, and one child graduated from the high school. He is seeking his second term on the board.
ISSUES: Finances and the volatility of state aid are the main issues facing the district, along with the cost of unfunded mandates. “With the property tax cap, that’s very challenging right now,” he said. The district also is in the middle of respectful negotiations with the bargaining unit, he said. Even with challenges, it’s important to look ahead, he said. “It’s the second year of full-day kindergarten, and that was a big change. And we always look at activities that keep kids occupied — art, music, and athletics, in addition to academic pursuits, are very important,” he said. “We have to continue to do that.”