TODAY'S PAPER
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Scattered Clouds 42° Good Evening

VOTING

7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Wantagh, Mandalay and Forest Lake elementary schools.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $76,872,623 budget for 2017-18, a 0.88 percent increase from the current $76,204,655. The tax levy would rise by 0.4 percent, from $55,954,095 to $56,177,911.

This increase is within the 1.17 percent allowed by the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority is needed to approve the budget.

School taxes on an average single-family home under the proposed budget would rise 0.4 percent, from $8,542 to $8,576.

The proposed budget includes a 0.8 percent contractual salary increase and a step increase of 1 percent for district teachers. It would add 4.6 full-time-equivalent teacher aides; 2.3 full-time equivalent elementary teachers; a full-time equivalent Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math teacher; 0.65 full-time equivalent custodian; 0.5 full-time equivalent instructional technology coach; 0.5 full-time equivalent psychologist and 0.2 of the salary for a clerical aide. The budget also would fund six additional Advanced Placement courses or other electives. The budget would cut 3.7 full-time equivalent secondary teachers and 2.6 full-time equivalent special-education teachers, based on declining enrollment.

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbents Michael Cucci and Ann-Marie Sturniolo and candidates Adam Fisher and Liz Guber are running for two at-large seats. Terms are three years.

Michael Cucci

BACKGROUND: Cucci, 58, has a bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany. Cucci, a commercial real estate consultant, has lived in the district for 55 years and has four children who attended Wantagh schools. Cucci is a member of several local civic and education associations, including the Wantagh Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Wantagh/Seaford Homeowners Association. He is seeking his seventh consecutive term as a trustee on the Wantagh Board of Education, and previously served as the school board’s president and vice president.

ISSUES: Cucci said the district has enhanced its use of technology, including new digital media programs and the distribution of Chromebook laptops to all middle schoolers — all while keeping the district’s budget under the state tax cap. “State aid has been a disappointment but we are finding ways to share and consolidate services,” he said. “We are watching our pennies.” While serving as school board president, Cucci assembled a committee that successfully implemented a full-day kindergarten program in 2013. The following year, the board created a $5 million capital reserve fund, Cucci said, that has funded buildings and facility improvements “with no additional impact to the taxpayers.”

Adam Fisher

BACKGROUND: Fisher, 35, has a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Fisher, who works as a director of the tax practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Manhattan, has lived in the district for four years. He has two young children who will attend district schools.

ISSUES: Fisher said his business experience and background as a certified public accountant will allow him to make improvements to the district in a “practical and cost effective manner.” Fisher said he wants to develop curriculum, programs and an “integrated pathway” that provides students with all of the skills needed to prepare them for college or the workforce. “It’s not about one particular program,” Fisher said. “It’s about providing a foundation of skills going forward.”

Liz Guber

BACKGROUND: Guber, 41, has a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College. She has lived in the district for nine years and has two young children attending a district school. Guber, who owns an accounting and tax services firm in Lake Success, has been a member of the district’s audit committee for the past five years.

ISSUES: Guber contends that the district would benefit from an “outside in” approach where Wantagh educational leaders meet and share ideas with school board members from other districts. “We should be sharing ideas to see what works and does not,” she said. Guber said she wants to expand the community’s involvement in the preparation of the district budget through online surveys and focus groups. She also wants to invite law enforcement officials to talk to parents and students about the risks of social media. “It’s a whole new playing field for these kids,” Guber said. “And the onus is on us to stay informed.”

Ann-Marie Sturniolo

BACKGROUND: Sturniolo, 58, has a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree in counseling from Hofstra University, where she also obtained a professional diploma in marriage and family therapy. Sturniolo, who works as a marriage and family therapist, has lived in the district for 37 years. A former teacher, Sturniolo has three children that graduated from Wantagh schools. Sturniolo served three consecutive terms as a school board trustee from 2002 to 2011, then was re-elected in 2014. She is a past president of the Mandalay School PTA and of Wantagh SEPTA, which advocates for the needs of children with disabilities.

ISSUES: Sturniolo’s priorities include expanding technology, such as robotics, through Wantagh’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math [STEAM] program and to increase the district’s Advanced Placement offerings. “Our kids must be prepared at a younger age,” she said. “We need to raise the bar for everybody.” Sturniolo, a former school board president and vice president, points to her role in helping to develop the past two school budgets, which included no increase to the tax levy. “It’s so important to keep Wantagh affordable,” she said. “I want to continue to advance opportunity for Wantagh students.”

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