6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Fifth Avenue Elementary and Dickinson Avenue Elementary schools and the William J. Brosnan School administrative offices.
The district proposes a $159,588,325 budget for 2015-16, a 0.3 percent increase from the current $159,109,341. The local tax levy would rise 1.3 percent, from $138,623,167 to $140,429,309.
The increase is within the state's tax cap-limit of 1.81 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would increase 1.6 percent, from $6,531.36 to $6,635.60.
The district did not provide the level of planned teacher salary increases, saying a contract had not yet been finalized. The proposed budget calls for the addition of 0.8 teaching positions and three security positions, while cutting two teaching assistant positions, one clerical, one computer tech and one administrative position. The district also plans to add full-day kindergarten.
A ballot proposition asks voters to approve spending $1.175 million from the capital reserve fund for building improvement projects including Northport High parking lot repaving, replacement of East Northport Middle School theatrical lighting and converting to gas boilers at Norwood Avenue School. The expenditure will have no effect on the tax rate, the district said.
Incumbents David Badanes and Stephen V. Waldenburg Jr. and challengers Michael Brunone, Peter Mainetti, Joshua Muno, David Stein and Tammie Topel are vying for three at-large seats. Incumbent James Maloney is not seeking re-election. Terms are three years.
David BadanesBACKGROUND: Badanes, 54, is an attorney specializing in matrimonial and criminal defense law. He received a bachelor's degree in computer science and applied mathematics from Stony Brook University and a law degree from St. John's School of Law. A district resident for 18 years, Badanes has three children, two who attend district schools. He is a former director of the Northport Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force. He has been a school board member since 2012.
ISSUES: Badanes said maintaining and improving educational programs would continue to be a challenge in light of both the tax cap and the ongoing litigation between Huntington taxing districts and the Long Island Power Authority over what the utility claims is years of overpaid power plant taxes. But he said he has been able to recognize the cloud that looms because of the LIPA issue and find ways to save money while keeping the programs the community wants. "It's more about knowing the rain burst can come anytime, and making sure you have the umbrella," he said. "Sometimes you have to make adjustments, even if they're little ones." Badanes cited a recent tentative contract agreement with teachers as an accomplishment, noting his service on the district's negotiation committee. "I try to bring my day job to my night job," he said. "The analytical skills, analyzing every issue."
BACKGROUND: Brunone, 48, is a financial professional with the Taglich Brothers brokerage firm. He graduated from Northport High School and attended Suffolk County Community College. A lifelong district resident, Brunone has two children attending district schools. He serves on the board of Larkfield Little League and volunteers in other youth sports programs. This is his first run for a board seat.
ISSUES: Brunone cited the ongoing LIPA litigation as a primary concern, saying he believes the district has done a good job of bracing for its potential budget impact, but that the planning cannot be slowed. He said the politics and controversy behind standardized testing would also continue to be at the forefront, noting that the district sent a message through the roughly 60 percent of its students who recently opted-out of the tests. "We don't have a quick-fix answer, but I think you saw the district telling you something with those numbers," Brunone said. If elected, he said he'd also seek improvements to school athletic facilities, which he said were worn-down and, in some cases, could potentially be unsafe. "I'm a good team player, and being a member of the board it's about working things out in collaboration," he said.
Peter MainettiBACKGROUND: Mainetti, 50, is a baker training specialist at Panera Bread in East Northport. He graduated from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and also attended Ithaca College. He is a member of a community group advocating for arts programs in schools. A district resident for 14 years, he has two children attending district schools. This is his first run for a board seat.
ISSUES: Mainetti said he's concerned about the reduction in arts, music and physical education programs, saying that those aspects of an education also can improve children's performance in core subjects. "We need to have a balanced education for our kids," he said, lamenting the fact that some arts and music teachers now have to cover multiple schools within the district. "But these are the things that often get cut now and I feel the board is trapped in a cycle and not as sensitive to public input as they could be." Mainetti also said he would look harder at ways to cut "redundant and unnecessary" spending. Potential targets could be goods and services contracts and seeking alternative energy solutions. "Are we using our weight as a district to get the best prices we can?" he said.
Joshua MunoBACKGROUND: Muno, 22, is a full-time student at Suffolk County Community College, studying political science, and works as a site safety captain/sales associate at a Hess gas station in Northport. He graduated from Northport High and has also attended SUNY Plattsburgh. A district resident for 18 years, Muno has no children and is making his first run for a board seat.
ISSUES: Muno cited implementation of Common Core policies as the most important issue facing the district and says he will push for increased lobbying efforts by its leaders. "As we grow content with such an overreaching policy, so many elements of education are being dissolved," he said. He said the focus on standardized testing places stress on parents, students and teachers, while encouraging "conformity of our children's minds." Muno said district leaders should become more proactive in the fight against Common Core and attend more coalitions and rallies. He also said he'd seek cuts to administrative positions and salaries before those to teachers and programs. "I'll be a strong voice for the community and the teachers, and bring a better understanding of the new generation of students," Muno said.
David SteinBACKGROUND: Stein, 41, is a retired New York City police lieutenant. He has an associate degree in criminal justice from Farmingdale State College. A lifelong district resident, he has two young children who will soon attend district schools. Stein became active in district matters during the recent successful push for full-day kindergarten. This is his first run for a board seat.
ISSUES: Stein said his organizing efforts for the full-day kindergarten initiative prove he has "the ability to coordinate, build consensus and bring about positive change." While regularly attending board meetings, he said he recognized the need for fresh voices who would value transparency and put an end to members assembling outside of formal meetings to make important decisions. "This is the definition of the kinds of backroom dealings that we all abhor in our elected government," Stein said. The district, he added, should institute term limits and can improve its notification system for residents who want to stay involved in school matters after their kids have graduated: "More community involvement is vital to a well-functioning board and district."
Tammie TopelBACKGROUND: Topel, 51, heads the nonprofit K.I.D.S. Plus, which provides therapeutic recreation for special-needs families. She has a bachelor's in nursing from Mount St. Mary College and a master's in health care administration from Hunter College. A district resident for 22 years, she has one child in district schools. She is past president of the district's Special Education Parent Teacher Association, a chairwoman of Suffolk's Regional PTA and a member of the Northport Rotary. She served on the board from 2010-13 and is running to reclaim a seat.
ISSUES: Topel said the looming LIPA issue should put more pressure on the district to reduce costs without cutting programs. She suggested that significant savings could be had by stopping the practice of sending special-education students to outside facilities. "Districts across Long Island are bringing back those kids to be taught because it's cheaper than outsourcing them," Topel said. Savings could also be found by examining the district's food service plan, she said. The district and the board also must do a better job of communicating with parents while making the budget process more inclusive, Topel said. "There's a lot of talking around the issues, and when people say they'll get back to you, they never do," Topel said of the perception many residents have of the district. "But I proved as a trustee that I was a very approachable person."
Stephen V. Waldenburg Jr.BACKGROUND: Waldenburg, 60, is a customer service manager at American Technical Ceramics Corp., a Huntington Station electronics manufacturer. He received a bachelor's in electrical engineering from Lehigh University. A lifelong district resident, Waldenburg has three children who have graduated from district schools. He is a longtime member of the Northport Community Band, a former assistant scoutmaster with the local Boy Scouts troop and a former secretary of the Northport Little League. He has been a board member since 2000, and is a past president.
ISSUES: Waldenburg called the ongoing LIPA lawsuit "the most challenging issue before us," and said while it's "beyond any single trustee's ability to influence," he would continue to advocate for a "fair settlement" that does not harm district taxpayers, so the district would never have to slash programs or increase class sizes. He said another priority would be planning for enrollment changes, including a possible decline that would force potentially tough decisions. "I feel my experience on the board can be helpful there because the way I've approached the many other challenges we've had," he said. He said the district has long striven to keep its budgets within the state's tax cap: "It speaks to the concerns we have over spending."