School Budget Vote: It’s decision day for North Fork voters

05/15/2012 9:01 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Krista de Kerillis, (from left) Alison Lyne and Linda Goldsmith take questions at the Meet the Candidate gathering on Monday in Orient.

It’s school vote day today on the North Fork, with budget proposals and open school board seats on the ballots in all five local school districts.

Below is our voter’s guide, containing information you might want to read before heading out to the polls to vote in your local district.

Check back on for live coverage as all the votes are announced once the last of the polls close at 9 p.m.



Budget Request

2012-13: $14.91 million
2011-12: $14.1 million
Change: +5.78 percent

Tax Levy

2012-13: $11.57 million
2011-12: $10.83 million
Change: +6.86 percent

What’s in it?

Teacher salaries would be frozen. Capital improvement debt payments for two bonds voters approved in 2010 — one for $7.48 million for major repairs to the more-than-80-year-old school building and the other for a $1.27 million green energy initiative.

Half of the tax rate hike is tied to the repairs bond. The year-to-year budget tax rate increase is 3.31 percent.


Budget Request

2012-13: $38 million
2011-12: $37.36 million

Tax Levy

2012-13: $33.6 million
Change: +2.19 percent

What’s in it?

Mattituck-Cutchogue school officials describe this year’s budget as a bare-bones spending plan, with most of the increase covering salary, benefit and pension increases for employees, and a hefty cut in technology funding.

The district plans to appropriate $1.14 million from its fund balance to keep the tax increase under the cap, and Superintendent James McKenna has halved his salary increases in a newly negotiated contract.

New Suffolk

Budget Request

2012-13: $769,000
2011-12: $645,330

Tax Levy

Change: +15 percent

What’s in it?

Tiny New Suffolk sharply drew down its reserve funds this year when seven new students moved into the district after the budget was adopted, which led the district to return about $91,000 spent to educate those students to its reserve fund this year.

The district has opted to forgo a new SmartBoard and curriculum development next year, as well as extracurricular expenses, to shave  costs from the budget, which is still well above the state 2 percent cap. Because the spending plan calls for piercing the cap, the “yes” votes must total 60 percent or the budget will go down to defeat.


Budget Request

2012-13: $5.35 million
2011-12: $5.62 million
Change: -4.85 percent

Tax Levy

2012-13: $4.86 million
2011-12: $4.98 million
Change: +2.5 percent

What’s in it?

The school’s only librarian, a special education teacher and a teacher’s assistant would be terminated. The district would add a pre-K program and invest about $19,000 in iPads for its fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.

Voters will be asked to approve a proposition to establish a $2.5 million reserve fund dedicated for capital improvements.


Budget Request

2012-13: $27 million
2011-12: $26.3 million

Tax Levy

Change: +2.93 percent

What’s in it?

Southold won’t replace 1.7 teaching positions when current teachers retire at the end of this year, saving about $335,000, and $9,000 earmarked for a second play has been removed.

Voters will also be asked to approve two referenda. One calls for the transfer of $1.5 million from the district’s repair fund to its capital fund to replace the high school roof. If it passes, a follow-up referendum would be held next fall to authorize spending the money.

A second referendum to spend up to $190,000 from the school’s bus reserve fund on a new school bus is also on the ballot.



The only contested school board seat in Southold Town is part of the Oysterponds district’s seven-member board, with three candidates running in next Tuesday’s election for two available seats.

East Marion residents Linda Goldsmith, who has served for 22 years, and Krista de Kerillis, who has been on the board since 2009, are both seeking new terms. Orient resident and Oysterponds parent Alison Lyne hopes to replace one of them.

During a May 7 forum at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, about 50 people listened as the candidates debated several hot topics, including the controversial issue of where to send the district’s secondary students.

In March the board touched off an emotional dispute by agreeing that parents could sent their 7th to 12th grade students to either Greenport or Mattituck if tuition contracts are reached with both districts and approved by voters. Since Greenport has always been the next stop for Oysterponds students, that marked a major change in district policy.

The elections did not seem to develop into a referendum on the Greenport versus choice issue, since both incumbents voted against adding Mattituck to the list and Ms. Lyne said that although she supports choice, she believes Oysterponds can maintain its historic ties with Greenport if a number of program improvements are implemented.

The Oysterponds district, which operates a K-6 school for Orient and East Marion students, currently sends its secondary students to neighboring Greenport.

In agreeing to the choice, the school board also said it would put both contracts up for public referendum once they’d been finalized. That is unlikely to happen before the May 15 ballot, when next year’s operating budget and the two school board seats will be decided. Board members said the contract vote will probably take place during the summer.

If both contracts fail, or if no agreement is reached by September, Oysterponds students will continue to attend Greenport and tuition will be determined by the Seneca Falls rate, a state formula that establishes the tuition rate for non-resident students.

Ms. Lyne, mother of a third-grader and a preschooler and a PTA executive board member, said she’s “not against Greenport,” but recommended that school beef up its AP program and offer more services for average students. Ms. Lyne also said she’d like to see the formation of a committee comprising both superintendents and two members from each school board to improve communication between the two districts.

Ms. Goldsmith, a retired masonry business owner, said she voted against the two-school designation because she believes Greenport is the best choice.

“I don’t think Greenport is lacking anything,” she said. “I don’t always agree with my constituents or the board, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Ms. Goldsmith said she’s concerned that the board’s method of choosing a secondary school might trigger state intervention that could lead to consolidation.

“If the Board of Education does not get its act together and does not stop worrying about choice of high school, combining a class here and starting a preschool without looking at facts, without talking to people, without trying to keep our sense of community with our neighboring school, then one of these days the State of New York is going to tip-toe down and they are going to say ‘You guys are crazy. You know what? You’re too small and you’re too dysfunctional to be opened,’ ” Ms. Goldsmith said.

Ms. de Kerillis, a graduate of the Oysterponds and Greenport schools, said she also disagrees with how the board has dealt with the secondary school contract this year because she believes it isn’t fair for students to feel uncertain about which school they will be attending.

“We didn’t start [negotiating] until February. I wanted to do it earlier but it got shot down,” Ms. de Kerillis said. “For that, I’m sorry. You deserve to be informed.”

While the secondary contract discussion dominated the public forum, candidates also expressed their opinions on the district’s new pre-K program. Between 6 to 10 students are expected to enroll in the program next year.

Ms. de Kerillis said she’s not in favor of the plan and would rather see the funds used to expand current programs and add foreign language classes.

Ms. Goldsmith agreed and said she didn’t believe there will be enough students to sustain the program. Ms. Lyne said the district should have done a better job fleshing the plan out before implementing it.

“I don’t think we’re ready for it,” Ms. Lyne said. “I think it’s a great idea down the line.”


There are two seats on the ballot but only one candidate running.

Incumbent Dan Creedon is seeking reelection, but board vice president Lisa Murray is stepping down. No one else submitted a petition to run for either seat.

Mr. Creedon, a Greenport firefighter and an earth science teacher at Islip High School, said he decided to seek re-election because he’d like to continue building on the school board’s recent progress, such as much-needed facility upgrades.

After the May 15 election, the school board can replace Ms. Murray either by appointing someone to a one-year term or by calling a special election to fill the full three-year term, Superintendent Michael Comanda said.


Three seats are open in Mattituck and three candidates, two current board members and one newcomer, will be on the ballot.
Incumbents Laura Jens-Smith and Douglas Cooper are seeking re-election. Last fall, board member Jeff Smith announced he wouldn’t seek a new term and that position will go to Sarah Hassildine of Cutchogue.

Ms. Hassildine, the mother of a Mattituck High School freshman, has worked as a substitute teacher’s assistant and as a substitute in offices throughout the district. She is also a bookkeeper and a Web designer who worked for a technology firm that contracts with the district.

Ms. Jens-Smith, who was elected last year to fill a vacancy on the board, is a nurse and the parent of two students in the district. Mr. Cooper is a Mattituck farmer.


Southold’s race this spring will be uncontested. School board president Paulette Ofrias and member John Crean are both running unopposed. Dr. Crean is a medical doctor seeking his second term and Ms. Ofrias is a part owner of Southold Pharmacy.

New Suffolk

In New Suffolk, Brigitte Gibbons, whose term is expiring, decided not to run again after nine years on the three-member board.

The school will entertain write-in candidates, and if no one’s name is written in, the board can appoint someone.

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