A sign in front of William Floyd Elementary School in...

A sign in front of William Floyd Elementary School in Shirley encourages residents to vote on the William Floyd School District's budget on May 17. (May 13, 2011) Credit: Carl Corry

VOTING

7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday in William Floyd High School's east lobby

 

THE BUDGET

The district is proposing a budget of $208,134,194 for the 2011- 12 school year, an increase of 4.05 percent over this year's $200,029,600.

The local tax levy would be $90,116,091, up 12.47 percent from this year's figure of $80,121,159. The district says that increase would raise taxes on an average house to $5,186.40 next year from the current $4,611.04. The average home assessment is $1,995.

The proposed budget includes a contractual raise for teachers of 1 percent, together with step increases averaging 2.2 percent. However, the district says raises are subject to negotiation.

Like other low-wealth districts, William Floyd finds itself squeezed between declining state aid and rising costs in pensions and other areas. Next year, the district plans to eliminate 101 jobs, including 48 teachers and 33.5 teaching assistants or paraprofessionals. Also planned are deep cuts in student services such as BOCES career training and elementary music. Seventh- and eighth-grade sports teams will be combined, and middle-school schedules will be shortened.

District website: wfsd.k12.ny.us

 

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbent Robert Taiani is running unopposed for another three-year term. Incumbent Jeananne Dawson faces Joseph H. Johnson for the other three-year term.

 

Jeananne Dawson

BACKGROUND: Dawson, 62, an administrative assistant for a private firm, has lived in the district for 36 years. She and her husband, Richard, have two grown children who graduated from the district. A grandson is enrolled there. She has served on the school board 31 years -- the longest tenure of any current board member -- and participated in civic organizations and church clubs. She holds a diploma from St. Joseph's Mountain School, a private Catholic academy in upstate Monticello that has closed since she attended.

ISSUES: Dawson said the biggest issue facing the district, as always, is its dependence on state aid. As Albany cuts aid, she said, it has a responsibility to also reduce costly state mandates. As an example of an expensive mandate, Dawson cited a state requirement that districts provide graphic calculators to students who don't have them in math or science classes where such calculators must be used. Dawson said the state should pay for those calculators. She also said the state needs to distribute aid more fairly to districts such as hers that are low in taxable wealth.

 

Joseph H. Johnson

BACKGROUND: Johnson, 28, an attorney, is a lifelong resident of the district and a graduate of William Floyd High School. He is single and has a daughter enrolled in third grade in the district. Johnson volunteered as a catechism teacher and assistant youth minister at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church in Mastic Beach. He holds a law degree from Touro Law School and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Stony Brook University.

ISSUES: Johnson said fiscal responsibility is the biggest issue facing the district. He acknowledged his opponent's long service on the school board, adding that the current board has tried to act responsibly. But he said the board needs a "fresh set of eyes." Dawson cited the large-scale layoffs and program cuts being planned for next year, saying the board should consider other alternatives such as cutting "fat." Johnson said he could not be more specific about costs that might be eliminated without joining the board and familiarizing himself with school operations from the inside. That, he added, was the only way "to make sound fiscal decisions."

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