6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Smithtown Elementary School, Accompsett Elementary School, St. James Elementary School and the Nesconset Elementary School building.
The district is proposing a $236,027,619 budget for 2016-17, a 2.84 percent increase over the current $229,498,602. The tax levy would rise by 0.66 percent, from $182,773,399 to $183,981,742.
This increase is equal to the amount allowed under the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.
School taxes on the average single-family home would increase by 0.66 percent, from $9,269.46 to $9,330.74.
The district said salary increases for teachers are subject to negotiations. The proposed budget does not include reductions in teachers or staff. It would add a STEM program in grades K-8 while eliminating seventh-grade study hall.
- District website:
Two by-seat positions are open. Incumbent Theresa Knox and candidate Daniel B. Lynch are running for one seat, while candidates Robert Foster, Robert Montana and Michael Saidens are running for the other seat. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Knox, 63, has served on the school board since 2007 and previously served from 2000 to 2006. Knox is a homemaker and has lived in the district for 29 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Stony Brook University. Her three children attended district schools. Knox is chair of the Smithtown College Scholarship Committee and is a past president of both the Nesconset Elementary PTA and Smithtown High School PTSA.
ISSUES: Knox said her focus on the board has been “maintaining the quality program within the new reality of the 2 percent tax levy cap.” She said Smithtown’s finances have stabilized; for example, she said, the district’s contributions to the state pension fund have leveled off as the stock market has improved. “You try to get economies of scale,” Knox said. “We’ve actually been managing, the last two years [or] three years, to maintain programs.” Some cuts to music programs have been restored. She said she wants elementary class sizes to remain around 22 or 23. “I hate when I see class sizes of 25 or so,” she said.
Daniel B. Lynch
BACKGROUND: Lynch, 38, a council representative at the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, is a lifelong district resident and graduated from Smithtown Central High School. Lynch’s four sons attend a district school. He has served on the volunteer organizing committee for Union Carpenters Local 290 and on projects such as Homes for Heroes, Boots on the Ground and the Carpenter Mentor Apprentice Committee.
ISSUES: Lynch said the Common Core exams were “inappropriate” for young children and he supports “a parent’s right to choose” whether their children should take them. “We need to support the outcry in order for the curriculum to change,” he said. He said he wants to be a “liaison” between school officials and parents. He said the district’s proposal to close Branch Brook Elementary School due to declining enrollment “seems to make the most sense fiscally,” but he sympathizes with affected families. “I promise to be a quick study. I want to study all these aspects and make an educated decision,” Lynch said of district issues.
BACKGROUND: Foster, 69, is retired from a career in sales and marketing. He has two children who attended district schools. Foster was a member of a district committee studying closure of schools due to declining enrollment. He has been a mentor for a program in which students learn about business and for the district robotics team. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from LIU Post and served in the Army from 1969 to 1971.
ISSUES: Foster is concerned about district finances — especially limits on state aid because of the district’s relative wealth. The district may receive no additional state aid as enrollment declines, he said. “At the same time, as far as meeting salary increases, we can’t do it anymore. It’s impossible. That’s the biggest issue facing us right now,” he said. He said he wants to lobby state lawmakers to change the Taylor Law, which requires step increases when contracts have expired. He fears restoring cuts “may come to a screeching halt” because of escalating payroll.
BACKGROUND: Montana, 45, a director of finance, has lived in the district for 14 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Binghamton University and a master’s degree in business administration from Dowling College. He has four children who have attended or are attending district schools, and he is a member of the Branch Brook Elementary PTA.
ISSUES: Montana said the biggest issue facing the district is declining enrollment, since district officials may close an elementary school. He said his background in finance “will be an asset to this board to do some analysis and look at the numbers and see if that’s the right thing to do.” Montana also said he is concerned about taxes and resolving contract negotiations with district teachers, who have worked this year without a contract. “I’d like to see a contract where everybody feels like they’re treated fairly ... but at the same time, it doesn’t put an undue burden on the taxpayers,” he said.
BACKGROUND: Saidens, 43, is an elementary school principal in the Sachem district. He has a child attending a district school. Saidens has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Clemson University, a master’s degree in special education from Dowling College and a graduate certificate in school district administration from Stony Brook University.
ISSUES: Saidens said Smithtown is a “wonderful school district” that faces challenges such as declining enrollment, possible school closures and tax cap restraints. “I think it’s important that we continue to put best practices in our classrooms to meet the needs of all students,” he said. The district should be “financially prudent to keep the taxes low” but keep as many programs as possible, he said. He said Long Island taxpayers pay a lot of state taxes and Smithtown should get its “fair share back from Albany.”