3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at Walt Whitman High School.
The district proposes a $170,505,675 budget for 2018-19, a 4.74 percent increase from the current $162,794,840. The tax levy would increase by 2.15 percent, from $112,183,534 to $114,599,696.
This increase is equal to the district’s 2.15 percent tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget.
School taxes on the average single-family house would rise 2.63 percent, from $8,592 to $8,818.
The proposed budget would call for teachers to get a 1.5 percent contractual pay increase and a 2.5 percent step increase. It calls for the addition of one Advance Placement course, AP Capstone.
There are two propositions on the budget. Both will not increase the tax rate, the district says.
Proposition Two asks for approval to sell property owned by the district on Depot Road. Proposition Three asks for approval to purchase Oakwood Road property adjacent to Stimson Middle School.
Four candidates are vying for three at-large seats. Terms are three years. In the running are incumbents Michele R. DeGaetano, Linda O. LaCara, Edward J. Nitkewicz and challenger Solange Rich.
Michele R. DeGaetano
BACKGROUND: DeGaetano, 46, has lived in the district for 17 years. She is a senior executive recruiter and her husband, Brian, is a teacher and coach in the Bellmore-Merrick district. She received her bachelor’s degree in finance from Seton Hall. She is a member of the PTA and the Booster Club. She has two children in the district, a senior and a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School. She is running as a team with LaCara and Nitkewicz. She is seeking her third term, having served on the board since 2011.
ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district, she said, is being fiscally responsible in the 2 percent tax era while still being able to offer a full range of educational opportunities and extracurricular activities. School safety is also another issue facing the district and many others, she said.
Linda O. LaCara
BACKGROUND: LaCara, 63, has lived in the district for 32 years. She has served as a board member since 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree in math from SUNY Albany and an MBA in computer information systems from SUNY Albany. She held four presidential positions in the PTAs until she was elected to the Board of Education. She volunteers at Huntington Community Food Council. Her two children are graduates of the district. She is running with Nitkewicz and DaGaetano.
ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district, she said, is to maintain high standards for each student — allowing them to achieve their greatest potential — while presenting budgets that comply with the tax cap. “I will work collaboratively with our administrative team and staff to close the achievement gap, introduce cutting-edge technology, continue to offer extensive opportunities in theater, music and athletics, increase course offerings and keep class sizes at acceptable levels,” she said. “This can and will be done while putting forth tax cap compliant budgets.”
Edward J. Nitkewicz
Background: Nitkewicz, 54, has lived in the district for 25 years. He is an attorney and his wife is a special education teacher employed by the Kings Park School District. He has a bachelor’s from Wagner College and a J.D. in Law from Touro Law Center. He serves as president of the Wagner College Alumni Association and is the vice chairman of Autism Speaks, Long Island. He has a 19-year-old son with autism who attends Walt Whitman High School. He is running with LaCara and DeGaetano.
ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district is fiscal responsibility, he said. Specifically, “managing our tax cap while providing the full range of educational opportunities in a safe environment to our wonderfully diverse population in a culturally sensitive and inclusive manner. ” he said.
BACKGROUND: Rich, 44, has lived in the district for 17 years and is a retired NYPD officer. Rich has attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Suffolk County Community College and is a New York State EMT with the Huntington Community First Aid Squad. Rich graduated from the New York City Police Academy and the state Department of Corrections Academy. She has served as a girl scout leader for eight years, Cub Scout leader for ten years. She is a eucharistic minister at St. Hugh of Lincoln Church. She received the New York State Assembly Woman of Distinction Award in 2015. She has served as a PTA President and as a foster parent to four girls. She has three children in the district, attending fourth, seventh and eighth grades.
ISSUES: School safety is among the most important issues facing the district today, she said, adding that each school building must be analyzed for safety purposes. “I feel that there is not one clear cut answer, each building has to be approached individually,” she said. She also said her law enforcement background gives her a clear understanding of what changes are needed to make schools safer. She also said that as a Hispanic, first generation American, she would bring diversity to the board. “We have a large Hispanic community but our diversity is not reflected on our school board,” she said.