The Northport Board of Education adopted a 2011-12 budget of $151,178,758 at its meeting Wednesday, April 13. It also approved a return of $187,927 in additional state aid to taypayers, reducing the proposed tax rate from 1.98% to 1.83%.
The board also approved adding Proposition 2 to the May ballot, which would tap a maximum of $900,000 from the capital reserve fund of $1.4 million to repair two boilers at the East Northport Middle School, as well as the steps in front of the , which have become damaged by skateboarders and general wear-and-tear.
Trustees engaged in a lengthy discussion about possible improvements to playing fields. In the end, they approved the use of $600,000 through an interfund transfer to repair the athletic fields at both of the middle schools, as well as upgrading the 50-year-old electrical service at the Northport Middle School.
The budget and trustee is scheduled for May 17. See
Boilers Trump “Univents”
Before the board reached a decision on boiler repairs, there was much discussion of other repair work that is needed at the middle schools. “Univents” – those cabinets in the back of the classrooms which provide heat – are showing their age, according to Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Anthony Resca.
Trustee Lori McCue asked if new univents could be added to the Request for a Proposal (RFP) for an energy performance contract that is currently being vetted. In response to a question from resident Carl Litt, Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander said the responses to the request for proposals is being reviewed by the district’s law firm Ingerman Smith and should be ready to be released by the end of May or beginning of June.
Superintendent Marylou McDermott emphasized the need to prioritize, and spoke in favor of new boilers. Resca agreed that he thought the boilers were more important, and resident Joesph Sabia commented on possible cost savings if new boilers were installed.
Improving the Playing Fields
At the suggestion of Board President Stephen Waldenburg, trustees looked at possible improvements to playing fields.
Athletic Director Drew Cronin said the fields at both the Northport and East Northport middle schools —which are used for lacrosse, football, and soccer —are safe, but are in need of upgrades due to constant use by leagues as well as school teams.
Cronin estimated that the cost to re-sod and add an irrigation system to the fields would be $190,000 each.
Molander said those estimates were based on numbers compiled a few years ago and would need to include an architect’s fee. She suggested adding 25%, bringing the total for field repairs to $475,000.
Because of restrictions in the use of capital reserve funds, field repairs cannot be included. Trustee Joe Gannon suggested creating a new capital reserve fund with broader wording and less restrictions on use.
Cronin confirmed that a number of school teams are using Veterans Park in East Northport in March and April at a cost of $1900, but that due to an agreement with the Town of Huntington, use is limited to between 3:00 and 5:00 every day. While that allows some of the fields to “rest," community leagues contribute a lot of wear-and tear as well.
Waldenburg said it was a “tough line to walk” to restrict the league’s access to fields but that he’d like to see the administration create a procedure to give fields a rest rather than having the board create a policy.
Trustee Donna McNaughton noted that the district does not currently have a pole vault. Resca said that students practice at an alternate site but that the high school forfeits points when hosting meets. One resident suggested that boosters could raise funds to support the $15,000 purchase of a pole vault.
Comments from the Public
Former trustee Rob Ingraham asked how much money has been allotted in the budget for unallocated teaching positions. McDermott said that the administration now builds in money to allow for other things besides staff, such as increased AIS. The total amount is $527,000 and Molander confirmed that any leftover money is returned to the general fund.
Resident Joseph Sabia asked how the district could achieve a 0% increase for taxpayers. Molander confirmed that the budget would need to be reduced by $2.2 million. However, if no reserves were used, that reduction would need to grow to $4.5 million.
Resident Barbara Galofaro asked McDermott for clarification about the district’s contract negotiations with the United Teachers of Northport. The district has proposed removing the weighting of students from the contract so that it can be treated as policy.
McDermott confirmed that her plan to cap class size at 23 unweighted, rather than the current 29 weighted would still allow enough space for students to move in from other classes.
Galofaro, who worked in the district when there was no weighting, advised against such a policy. She said teachers take into account the needs of weighted students when planning lessons, and to remove that from the contract negotiation is "deplorable.”
Board VP Karen Wills said she would appreciate Galofaro’s input before any policy is developed.
The next Board of Ed meeting will take place on Thursday, April 28 at 7:30 PM in the William J. Brosnan School Cafeteria. The Board will vote on the BOCES Administrative budget and trustees, and a public work session on board policies will follow.