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Northport BOE Adopts 2011-12 Budget; Adds Proposition to Fund Repairs

Trustees approved the return of $187,927 in additional state aid to taxpayers to reduce tax levy to 1.83%; Proposition 2 on May ballot would draw from capital reserve fund for repairs at East Northport Middle School and Brosnan Administration Building.

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.

 Future Meetings
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.

Concerned Citizen April 16, 2011 at 05:47 PM
But you have completely avoided the value of education. Our kids are graduating and going off to universities all over the country. I understand your frustration, but regardless of the economy and the hardship that falls on good people, education of children still is a priority of society. You can't turn your back on these principles of a great society.
2concernedtwo April 16, 2011 at 06:01 PM
@concerned citizen. I am not ignoring the value of education. Whatever "value" our kids attained they did on $137M more or less. And, your comment assumes that the more money that is spent, the more "value" the kids get. I equate value with outcomes. Outcomes come from great teachers, hard working students, great test scores, college placement and all the other benefits that come from a great education. Frankly, I did not see that extra "value" in $151M. I just saw a request for extra spending. I will reject this budget for even more reasons.
Concerned Citizen April 16, 2011 at 11:40 PM
@2Concernedtwo I made no comment that would bring you to that assumption. Your previous post entirely spoke of money and hardship, but avoided to discuss the importance of education. You seem completely consumed by your point of view and are looking to pass the guilt of voting NO to someone else. If you’re frustrated that the cost of delivering an education to the children of Northport is elevating faster than you can handle, or than it should be for anyone to handle, fine. I get it! However, I am tired of people who only focus on the money and forget about the children as much as I am tired of people who stand on a soapbox and talk about education with no regard to spending. Education of children is fundamental to any society, and managing schools well so costs do not outpace the funding sources is important to keep education thriving. If you want to vote no, vote no, we all have a different financial capabilities. But, if you can afford it and choose not to approve the budget and want to be free of the guilt over it, sorry, you will not get a free pass from me.
2concernedtwo April 17, 2011 at 02:59 PM
@concerned citizen. I disagree with your comment above for the following reasons: It was your response that said I ignored education "value". You made the connection between the tax increase and education value. Not I. I clearly responded that spending does not equate to educational "value". I have no guilt. I did not make the decision to ignore the compassionate and personal pleas of individuals seeking tax relief. I have commented that the board should have considered those pleas and acted on them. The board could have AT A MINIMUM HAD NO INCREASE IN SCHOOL TAXES WITHOUT SACRIFICING ACADEMIC PROGRAMS ETC. THAT THIS DISTRICT OFFERS. They decided otherwise. They MAY have guilt. But in any case, THEY HAVE TO LIVE WITH THEIR DECISION. However, in my opinion, any concerned citizen with compassion would have not made that decision. You said "I am tired of people who only focus on the money and forget about the children as much as I am tired of people who stand on a soapbox and talk about education with no regard to spending." Concerned Citizen, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the frying pan. Unlike the Board, my decision will come at the polls. And given the recent headline this weekend, the fair offer of the UTN and assuming the Board accepts their offer, the proposed budget should be REVISED before May 17. But until and if that occurs, I now have more reasons to REJECT THE BUDGET.
Concerned Citizen April 17, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Can't respond to your myopic dribble any more... Do what you have to do behind a blog moniker and behind the curtain on May 17th.

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