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Bennett, Ryan Elected to Board; Budget Approved

Voters Also Approve Library Budget

The Massapequa Board of Education will have a new member when it convenes for the next school year. On May 17, challenger Gary Bennett was the top vote getter in the board of education election. Voters in the Massapequa School District were asked to choose two board members from four candidates. Bennett received 2,917 votes, while incumbent Jane Ryan was re-elected with 2,779 votes. Incumbent Christine Lupetin Perrino came in third with 2,566 votes, while another challenger, Carl Hoops, received 2,488 votes.

Meanwhile, voters easily approved the 2011-2012 budget, with 3,249 voters approving the document and 2,372 voting no. The library budget was approved by a similar margin, 3,501 voting yes and 2,047 expressing their opposition. The school budget amounted to $179,209,899 in spending, with a budget-to-budget increase of 1.72 percent and a tax levy of 1.64 percent.

In the campaign, Bennett, who was running as a team with Carl Hoops, said that he was a challenger to protest the district’s “runaway budget,” one that he claimed had seen administrative salary costs to “explode” from $2.9 million in 2003 to over $10 million, which he further claimed was causing “severe damage” to home values. Bennett expressed his desire to keep both administrative and superintendent salaries under control. He also endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to roll back and freeze administrative salaries, citing it as a policy that would maintain current student teacher ratio, while protecting good teachers “from fear of losing their jobs.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Ryan defended her record on the board. She registered her support for the 2011-2012 budget, noting that it was under Gov. Cuomo’s proposed tax cap of 2 percent, while also maintaining the district’s core education programs, arts and science, and sports, plus full day kindergarten, and the district’s enhanced security presence throughout all of its schools. She said that the budget and tax levy were the district’s lowest in 12 years. During the campaign, Ms. Ryan also touted her experience as a certified public accountant and president of her own business as qualifications to continue her work on the BOE.

Also during the campaign, both Superintendent Charles Sulc and Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock defended the budget.

“While cuts in state aid, rising pension costs, and unfunded mandates are uncontrollable realities that drive up expenses for all districts, we are doing all we can from keeping those uncontrollable costs from compromising our value-based, quality-driven instructional programs, especially at a time when student achievement is higher than ever,” said Sulc in his pre-election message.

The superintendent also praised the educational performance of Massapequa students.

“Massapequa students place in the top 25 percent in Nassau County for student achievement, but our cost-per-pupil spending is in the bottom 10 percent of Nassau County’s 56 school districts,” he maintained. “Our educational return on investment is very high. With statistics like these, we hope to keep our programs going strong so that students can continue to succeed academically.”

Adcock also defended the tax levy of 1.64 percent, also noting that it was below the 2 percent range.

“Through careful, long-range planning we have been able to build up reserves and fund balances to offset the tax levy,” Adcock said in his own statement. “As a result, Massapequa’s tax levy increase is the fourth lowest in the county.”

Meanwhile, in the Plainedge School District, all measures passed, including the school budget (1,657 yes, 1,165 no), the library budget (1,805 yes, 950 no), the Capital Reserve vote (1,708 yes, 965 no). Both incumbent school board candidates, Catherine Flanagan and Patricia Zinke were re-elected. Laura Odom Bell received 1,107 votes to win a library trustee seat, defeating Michael Aronofsky who had 897 votes.