Northport School Board President Stephen Waldenburg, Jr. and VP Donna McNaughton, who are running for reelection this May, will be joined by local attorney David Badanes and financial planner James Maloney. Kristen Gavin, who filled the remaining one year term left open by former Trustee Tim Madden's move from the district last year, is not running.
Here's a look at the four candidates, in the order in which they will appear on the ballot:
Donna McNaughton, who has already served one three-year term, has attended BOE meetings since 2004 and attends BOCES meetings as well. She spends an average of three nights a week on in-district Board business but also has attended budget meetings in Commack, Kings Park, Elwood and Harborfields to "get the perspective on what other districts are doing."
McNaughton is most proud of the work the Board has done on the budget during her tenure. "I'm proud that we were at two percent before the law required it," she said. As for the struggle this year to reach a compromise at a 1.68 percent levy, McNaughton said she was proud that concessions were made, adding that she has "complete respect" for Trustee Joe Sabia who cast the dissenting vote. "The bigger issue is that people need to vote."
Her one regret is the lack of a contract with the teachers' union. "I think we"ll get there. It will take time but I don't think it's for lack of effort on either side."
Unfunded mandates continue to be a source of concern. Asked for some possible solutions, McNaughton said she'd like to see the state's recent relaxation on the "one seat on the bus for every child" law given a bit more teeth so that districts could take polls on how many children actually require busing, just as they conduct free lunch surveys.
Stephen Waldenburg, Jr. has served on the Board since 2000. A lifelong resident of Northport, he still volunteers with the Boy Scouts and plays the trombone for the Northport Community Band.
Waldenburg thinks the 1.68 percent is very reasonable. "Northport is like the poster child for the two percent tax cap. We've been doing it for four years in a row." As for lowering the rate any further, Waldenburg thought that was a bad idea, noting that if the District takes more money than it ends up needing, that can be considered misappropriation of funds. "We're trying to predict what's going to happen by the end of 2013. That's tough."
Like other Board members, he is concerned about contract negotiations and says he's attended the last several small meetings involving the union head and attorney as well as district councel and McDermott to try and "help get something started."
One of the biggest challenges that Waldenburg sees is resolving the APPR issues and meeting new testing requirements. "I don't want teachers to be stifled by the structure of some of these tests. That's a big challenge." He'd love to be able to focus more on what he calls "pure education" of students. "I think that's the real reason for the Board -- to make sure that's happening."
David Badanes is a 15-year resident of Northport with two school-aged children. He has attended four-five BOE meetings this year and is currently a Director on the Northport Chamber of Commerce. Badanes is also an assistant softball coach and has volunteered at several of the events held at Norwood Avenue Elementary School.
His biggest concerns are the lack of a teachers' contract and what he says is padding of the budget as a result. "It would be a lot better if they knew how much they had to pay teachers."
The proposed development at is also worrisome. "If that comes to fruition, there will probably be a large influx of students." Badanes also cites National Grid and improvements to buildings and grounds as issues that need to be addressed.
As for the 1.68 percent levy, Badanes said he felt he never heard the "zero percenters" come up with any plans. "I never heard specifics which I don't like." He has a meeting scheduled with McDermott and Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander next week to delve further into the issues of reserves and expenditures.
Badanes added that he'd like to see the length of the Board meetings shortened. "To have these meetings go until 1 a.m. is just crazy."
James Maloney has been a Northport resident for the past 5 and a half years. He has three school-aged children and has been to nine Board meetings since the start of the school year. He's a soccer coach and volunteers at several school events.
Asked about the 1.68 percent tax levy, Maloney thought it could have been lower. "I felt we could have been a bit tighter," he said, adding that could have been achieved through more use of reserves and more reductions in expenditures.
"The district is required to to spend 96-97 percent of a budget each year. We're not even close."
Currently a financial planner, Maloney has worked in the financial world for the past 17 years and says he's not a numbers cruncher but a problem-solver. "People come to me for solutions. Let's look for a solution that works for everybody."
His biggest concerns: settling the teachers contract quickly, LIPA's tax grievance, and the state of the district's buildings. "Not enough money is being spent on the buildings."
Maloney also noted that it seemed to him that there's a need for more training when new members join the Board. He also thought the budget needs to be made more clear to residents.
Residents will vote on the budget and trustees on Tuesday, May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.