Commack: $185M Budget, One Seat For Grabs

COMMACK, New York, May 14

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Voters can cast their say on both the Commack school board election and school budget on May 19 at Commack High School and Middle School from 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

Differing Perspectives From Two Commack Candidates

Jarrett Behar and William “Bill” Marchesi are two candidates with differing perspectives that seek to fill the lone seat on the Commack school board this election season.

2015 candidates for Commack School Board: Jarrett Behar, left, and William "Bill" Marchesi.
2015 candidates for Commack School Board: Jarrett Behar, left, and William “Bill” Marchesi.

Behar, 38, has two children – one in the second grade and another entering kindergarten in 2016 – and he believes this gives him a perspective that would allow him to be in the midst of the educational issues that face the district. The biggest issue he sees facing the district is the Common Core standards.

Behar, a nine-year resident of Commack and partner for Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina, LLP, believes the standards and standardized testing are inappropriate. He supports the opt-out movement not because the tests are too difficult, but as a statement; “this is not what we want in our schools,” he said during Commack’s candidates’ night.

He also supports the continued expansion of Commack’s educational and extracurricular programs, long-term district planning in assembling school budgets and a push for continued involvement in the community by school board members.

Marchesi has lived in the district for 56 years, is a graduate of Commack High School and has a son who graduated in 2004. Without a child currently enrolled in the district, Marchesi believes he could bring a unique perspective to the board and a voice to those taxpayers without enrolled students.

Contrary to Behar, Marchesi does not support the opt-out movement. He does, however, believe that Common Core standards were not rolled out effectively and should be reevaluated; he does not believe that standardized testing results should be linked to teacher evaluations.

Marchesi, a retiree from the labor union International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), supports a push to keep taxes low for Commack residents, ensuring that academically average students are given a voice and taking a more “transparent” approach to district practices in hopes of drawing greater community participation and involvement.

$185M Budget, District’s Lowest Tax Levy Increase Goes Before Voters

An $185,123,747 budget for the 2015-2016 school year goes before voters next week. The budget comes with a .95-percent tax levy increase, which is said by officials to be the lowest in the district’s history, and is below the district’s tax levy cap, which was 1.28-percent. The budget will be funded, in part, by $131,931,340 in taxes.

Commack expects to receive $38,454,915 in state aid, which includes a gap elimination adjustment restoration of $1.2 million.

The budget, which is a 1.03-percent increase from the 2014-2015 budget of $183,234,238, is built upon restorations and additions such as: stable and reduced elementary class sizes; enhanced middle school enrichment programs; more enhanced, college-level high school courses; a focus on secondary athletics; maintenance of co-curricular allocations; increased district-wide security; additional ENL/ESL staffing; increased AIS staffing; and a continued special education expansion through the district.

Trustee James Tampellini was the lone dissenter when board members voted on April 16 as he’s been an outspoken critic of the district’s budgeting practices, criticizing Commack for using its appropriated fund balance – accrued from the previous year’s budget – to keep tax increases low for the following year.

Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, May 14, 2015;  A12)

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