With school budget votes looming Tuesday, there are a few major developments to keep in mind, especially for taxpayers in the Mattituck-Cutchogue and Greenport school districts.
Seven people are running for three open seats on the Mattituck school board. In July, former board president Jerry Diffley resigned after 16 years of service, citing difficulties commuting from his job in Garden City. Then, about two months later, 18-year school board veteran Jeff Smith resigned and moved to Florida. Board member Bill Gatz’s term ends in June and he is running for re-election.
The candidates — Mr. Gatz, George Haase, Edward Hassildine, MaryLynn Hoeg, Tonya Kaiser-Witczak, Brian Mealy and Barbara Talbot — gathered in the high school auditorium last Thursday to share their views on current issues and their goals.
All the candidates agreed that two of the biggest issues facing the district are the decrease in enrollment and the ability to keep up with technology changes in the future. Additionally, all seven said they will pursue similar goals during their time on the board, should they get elected: continue the success the district has seen by meeting students’ changing needs and balancing the budget effectively.
Opinions differed, however, when it came to state testing and the lack of contract for teachers.
Mr. Hassildine, a Mattituck graduate, said he didn’t support Common Core or the “excessive testing” associated with it.
“Students all learn at a different pace,” he said. “Faculty shouldn’t be penalized by test scores. Teachers should be able to adapt to students and look at different ways to assess them.”
Mr. Haase, Ms. Talbot and Ms. Hoeg called the tests a “necessary evil.” They said they understood the importance of testing students, but didn’t like the idea of “teaching to a test.”
Overall, the candidates agreed the state needed to do more to Common Core to make it a truly valuable program.
The top two vote-getters Tuesday will be appointed to full three-year terms. The third qualifying candidate will serve the one year remaining in Mr. Diffley’s unexpired term.
The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District hasn’t experienced a contested school board race since 2011. During the 2013 election, a write-in candidate won after no one petitioned for an open seat left by an incumbent who decided not to seek re-election.
The Greenport School District is proposing to pierce the tax cap with a 8.52 percent increase in the levy.
Superintendent David Gamberg said the district is only allowed to raise the tax levy by 0.77 percent, or $98,320, for the next school year, an amount he has described as “insufficient.”
Instead, the district’s proposed hike carries an increase of nearly $1 million in the tax levy, bringing the total amount to be raised from property taxes to nearly $13.7 million. The total spending budget is around $17.9 million.
This budget allows for the restoration of numerous teaching positions that have been eliminated over the years, including converting the librarian and psychologist positions from part-time to full-time, adding a part-time social studies teacher and adding full-time teachers in math, reading, special education and English as a Second Language, as well as aides and clerical staff.
“This budget is largely restorative,” Mr. Gamberg said in April. “It’s making restorations so that children in kindergarten, first grade and second grade have the same support so that they, too, can in 10 years’ time achieve at a level that the current ’15 and ’16 classes did.”
The district is also looking to create a new position: a part-time science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher for grades K-8 who would work with the school garden, conduct labs and more, Mr. Gamberg said.
The proposed budget needs to receive a supermajority vote, which is a 60 percent approval rate, to pass.
In May 2013, Greenport became the only local school district to propose piercing the tax levy cap since the state-mandated restriction took effect for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Residents approved that budget by a supermajority vote.
A look at what’s on the ballot for each local school district (below). Visit suffolktimes.com Tuesday night for complete school board election coverage and voting results.
Mattituck-Cutchogue School District
Current budget: $40,924,934
Proposed budget: $40,289,375
Estimated tax levy increase: 0.4 percent
Three open seats, seven candidates: William Gatz, George Haase, Edward Hassildine, MaryLynn Hoeg, Tonya Kaiser-Witczak, Brian Mealy, Barbara Talbot
Polling takes place from 3 to 9 p.m. in the high school gym
New Suffolk Common School District
Current budget: $1,093,899
Proposed budget: $1,314,783
Estimated tax levy increase: 1.1 percent
One open seat, one candidate: Joseph Polashock
Polling takes place from 3 to 9 p.m. in a classroom at the school
Southold School District
Current budget: $29,148,995
Proposed budget: $29,008,500
Estimated tax levy increase: 0.67 percent
One open seat, one candidate: Judi Fouchet
Polls are open from 3 to 9 p.m. in the high school gym
Greenport School District
Current budget: $16,940,218
Proposed budget: $17,930,820
Estimated tax levy increase: 8.52 percent
Two open seats, two candidates: Christina Volinski, Heather Wolf
Polls are open between 2 and 8 p.m. in the school’s gym
Oysterponds School District
Current budget: $5,619,393
Proposed budget: $5,680,052
Estimated tax levy increase: 1.37 percent
Three open seats, three candidates: Krista de Kerillis, Thomas Stevenson, Dorothy-Dean Thomas
Polls are open from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gym