6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at North Merrick Public Library, 1691 Meadowbrook Rd., North Merrick
The district proposes a $32,492,312 school budget for 2018-19, a 3.51 percent increase from the current $31,389,464 budget. The local tax levy would rise 3.34 percent, from $22,024,914 to $22,761,266.
The increase is within the district’s tax cap limit of 3.38 percent, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family house would increase 3.36 percent, from $4,670.06 to $4,827.11.
The proposed school budget includes a 2 percent step increase and a salary increase subject to negotiations. Programs and staffing will stay at current levels.
The ballot also includes the proposed 2018-19 Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District budget of $159,788,043.
Four candidates are running for two at-large seats. Michelle Gordon, Vincent Lentini and incumbents Steve Enella and Todd Ransom. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Enella, 49, has lived in the district for 40 years. Enella attended the district’s Camp Avenue Elementary School and Brookside Middle School and graduated from Sanford H. Calhoun High School in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. Enella served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989 to 1994, with the rank of corporal. He works as a New York State-licensed home inspector. Enella’s two children attend public schools in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School district. Enella was elected to the school board in 2012. He is running as a team with Todd Ransom.
ISSUES: Enella said his strengths as a school board candidate are his experiences as a current board member, a local business owner for 17 years and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Enella said his background has given him the skills to make “tough decisions on a monthly basis that impact the taxpayers and the children.” Enella said that his accomplishments during his board tenure include participating in interviews that led to hiring current school Supt. Cynthia Seniuk. Enella said he was also involved in the interview process for the assistant superintendent for business and other district administrators. Enella said, “I’ve pretty much hired or been part of hiring just about the entire administration staff.”
BACKGROUND: Gordon, 48, has lived in the district for eight years. Gordon worked for 25 years as a senior business manager and director of business affairs for advertising agencies in Manhattan. She left the industry last year for personal reasons. Gordon has a bachelor of arts degree in radio and television from San Francisco State University. Gordon is an executive board member of the Loukoumi Foundation, an anti-bullying advocacy group, a PTA member at Old Mill Road School, and serves on the district technology committee. At Old Mill Road School, Gordon introduced the International Day of Happiness, which was observed in March for the third time, and this year included the Grit Initiative, a program that helps students build confidence. Gordon’s two children attend a district public school. This is her first run for the school board.
ISSUES: Gordon said that as a parent with children in district schools, two of her biggest concerns are safety and mental health. Gordon said she is not only concerned about “physical safety and protecting lives of our students and teachers,” but also about “safety for those with life-threatening illnesses such as food allergies.” Gordon said she would raise awareness about food allergies and work with school nurses to ensure that the menus and class parties are safe for all children. Gordon said that as a member of the district technology committee she has been working closely with the school superintendent, principals, staff and teachers. Gordon said her goal on the committee is “to ensure our children have the best and most valuable resources and the proper training and education in how and when to use new technology.”
BACKGROUND: Lentini, 40, has lived in the district for nine years. Lentini is a secondary school teacher and chairman in the technology, fine art and family consumer science department in the Lynbrook Public Schools. Lentini has a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and a master of science degree in secondary education, both from Hofstra University. He received a certificate of administration from the College of Saint Rose in Albany. Lentini coaches for the Merrick-Bellmore Little League. He has two children, one currently attending a district public school, and one who will be entering kindergarten in September. He serves on the board of the Merrick Community Nursery School, a private school in Merrick. This is his first run for the North Merrick school board.
ISSUES: Lentini said that if elected, his goal would be to “maintain programs in the era of the 2 percent tax cap and the elimination of the property tax deduction” by the 2017 federal tax reform legislation. Because of tax reform, “next year people won’t be able to claim more than $10,000 in property taxes on their federal tax return,” Lentini explained. Lentini said that as a public school educator and administrator he “will lend an experienced approach to board decisions” on the budget process. Lentini said that he would like to see “more communication and transparency between the school board and community members.” He continued, “I would also like to foster a feeling of collaboration and closeness within the school community by reaching out to all groups, including parents, teachers, administration, the board of education and other community members, and making them feel included.”
BACKGROUND: Ransom, 41, has lived in the district for more than 11 years. Ransom is an attorney at the law firm of Haynes and Boone in Manhattan. Ransom received a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from SUNY Plattsburgh and a juris doctor law degree from the University of Houston Law School. Ransom has four children; two attend district public schools; one attended a district elementary school but is currently enrolled in a parochial middle school; and one is not yet of preschool age, but will attend district public schools. Ransom has coached Merrick Police Athletic League soccer for the last six years. He has also coached local youth baseball and basketball teams. Ransom was elected to a one-year term last year after being appointed to fill the unexpired term of a board member who resigned.He is running as a team with fellow incumbent Steve Enella.
ISSUES: Ransom said that as a board member he has been “balancing the needs and best interests of the children with the limited resources of a small district budget . . . while remaining a vigilant fiscal steward for the taxpayers of the district.” Ransom said that a “significant portion of district resources” are “tied up in contractual obligations. Ransom said among his strengths as a board member are his negotiating skills. Ransom said, “Negotiating is something that I do every day for a living as a corporate finance attorney.” He said that in negotiations with district employees he is “trying to balance opposing positions to yield a result that produces positive gains for both sides.”