Following the disclosure at the June 4 Northport-East Northport Board of Education meeting that the district has an additional , Board members voted 7-2 to put $1,595,000 into a capital improvements proposition set for a Sept. 19 ballot. The remaining $375,000 would be used to lower the 1.68 percent tax levy, which voters had approved in May.
Trustees Lori McCue and Kristen Gavin cast the opposing votes.
The additional money would be earmarked for renovations to the East Northport and Northport Middle School auditoriums, the Northport Middle School bathrooms located in the lobby off the large cafeteria, and a new boiler and univents for Dickinson Avenue. Replacement of the Ocean Avenue and Pulaski Road univents were discussed but eventually eliminated in favor of returning the money to the taxpayer.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander explained that the money had been accrued for negotiations with the United Teachers of Northport. The union agreed to a new contract in May, which included a hard freeze in 2010-2011.
"If we did not set that money aside, we would not be bargaining in good faith," Superintendent Marylou McDermott explained.
Union president Antoinette Blanck noted that teachers not only took a hard freeze in the first year, but also agreed to zero percent in the following three years as well. She called it "disheartening" to discover that more money was actually available. "I don't care what we call it. It's deceiving."
The Board debated possible uses of the money before arriving at the final numbers. Trustee Joe Sabia was in favor of using $300,000 to lower the tax levy, while Trustees Jennifer Thompson and Tammie Topel thought the entire amount should be returned to the taxpayer.
Trustee Julia Binger noted that capital improvements were also a way to give back to taxpayers. "When we invest in our infrastructure, we are in a a sense giving back to the community." She added that at some point, "we have to pay for this."
Gavin and McCue were in favor of using the entire amount for capital improvements.
Board members also approved a second proposition which would create a second capital reserve fund which could not exceed $12 million for a term of 10 years. Funds could be used for a variety of purposes including roof repairs, classroom and lavatory renovations.