3 to 10 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School.
The district proposes a budget of $156,069,907 for 2015-16, an increase of 2.79 percent from the current $151,840,230. The local tax levy would rise 1.71 percent, from $108,653,751 to $110,510,532.
This increase is equal to the state's tax-cap limit of 1.71 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would increase 2.68 percent, from $8,147 to $8,365.
The district is currently in contract negotiations, but there are existing contractual steps. The proposed budget calls for the addition of the equivalent of 15.3 instructional staff, plus 0.5 full-time equivalent clerical staff. There will also be an addition of a natural helpers program for grades 6 through 12 and a intramural program for grades 5 through 8.
Incumbents Michele DeGaetano, Linda LaCara and Edward J. Nitkewicz face challenger Andrew Bronson for three at-large seats. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: DeGaetano, 43, is a senior executive recruiter. She is married and has two children who attend district schools. She has a bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University. She is a member of the South Huntington PTA and the Wildcat Booster Club. She has been on the school board for three years.
ISSUES: DeGaetano said building a budget that stays within the state's tax cap while dealing with federal and state unfunded mandates, trying to hire vital teachers and retaining programs are the biggest challenges facing the district.
BACKGROUND: LaCara, 60, has been on the board for nine years. She is an elder caretaker and homemaker. She is a former assistant vice president at Citibank. She received a bachelor of science in math in 1977 and a master of business administration in 1979, both from the University at Albany. She has two children who graduated from district schools. She has served as president and treasurer of Birchwood PTA; president and first- and second-vice president of South Huntington Council of PTAs; and president of Stimson middle school and WWHS PTAs.
ISSUES: She wants to enhance and enrich the quality of classroom instruction for all of the district's learners while remaining within the tax levy increase. "We must be prudent to sustain the programs and staff that we have been able to add back while still remaining fiscally responsible to the district and its taxpayers."
Edward J. Nitkewicz
BACKGROUND: Nitkewicz, 50, a personal-injury and special-education attorney, has been on the school board since 2009. He has lived in the district 20 years. He is married and has one child attending school in the district. He received his bachelor's degree from Wagner College and his law degree from Touro Law Center.
ISSUES: Nitkewicz said he thinks the district has adapted to the many challenges it has faced, such as the tax cap, Common Core and mandated ESL. He said he does not believe any student services should be trimmed, and said that thanks to the assistance of district labor unions they have been successful in making only the most necessary reductions while guarding the long-term fiscal health of the district. "The school board, administration, labor unions, staff and students have worked cooperatively to meet all challenges successfully," he said. "We have been an example on Long Island of what to do as we navigate these issues, we've managed the tax cap while not decimating programs, we're in the 100 high schools in the state. I think we are a model of success."
BACKGROUND: Bronson, 48, is an employment attorney with KPMG LLP. He is married and has two children who attend district schools. In 1989 he received a bachelor's degree in economics and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and in 1992 received a law degree from Emory University in Atlanta. He is a coach for the South Huntington Lacrosse Club, assistant coach for St. Elizabeth's CYO Basketball, volunteer food preparer and packager for God's Love We Deliver and lead counsel for KPMG's diversity advisory board.
ISSUES: He said there is nothing more important than ensuring a high-quality and well-rounded education for students. He said more teachers should be hired and class sizes should be smaller. "As much as I believe in core education, I don't want to put all the money into math and the sciences and you don't focus on the arts and the electives and after-school programs. It's not different than work-life balance for adults; you'll burn the kids out. School is learning and they have to be prepared for the future, but you can't just make it the core subjects."