22 Aug 2014
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UPDATED: Pat-Med School Budget Up For Vote Tuesday

District's proposed $162 million budget adds five teaching positions. Possible write-in campaign in BOE race?

UPDATED: Pat-Med School Budget Up For Vote Tuesday

The Patchogue-Medford School District 2012-2013 budget of $162 million goes up for vote Tuesday along with elections for three unopposed Board of Education seats.

The budget brings a tax levy increase of 1.99 percent, staying under the state-imposed two percent tax cap.

However the actual tax rate increase will not be finalized until August when the district’s assessed valuation is determined, said Donna Jones, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, at a recent budget meeting.

“We’re concerned about binding ourselves to a particular tax rate, and coming out and just saying three percent, and the assessed valuation declines, and we have a major challenge in terms of revenue shortfall,” Jones said.

Jones said that it is estimated that the increase will fall between three and five percent based on past history, with the number probably falling closer to the area of three and a half or four percent.

The district is not cutting any programs, and Jones reported to Patch that the previously announced have since been replaced. Additionally Jones said at the meeting that the proposed budget adds back five teaching positions.

Should the budget fail, the board can recommend a re-vote on June 19 or adopt a contingent budget. Jones said that the contingent budget would require $1.7 million of additional cuts, which Jones said likely would come from eliminating equipment purchases and staffing.

Regarding the Board of Education, . Incumbent trustees William LaVelle and Anthony O’Brien are running for the seats that they hold, and Christine Rignola is running for the seat currently held by Tony Russo after he chose not to re-run.

However, an advertisement taken out in the May 10 issue of suggests that Russo may be in the running as a write-in-candidate for LaVelle’s seat using a technicality by having voters writing in his first name as Anthony. The advertisement was purchased by a group known as “Friends of Anthony Russo”, who otherwise is currently anonymous.

LaVelle told Patch Monday morning that the advertisement was purchased by the (PMCT), and the organization's president Paul Pecorale.

Pecorale confirmed to Patch that he and PMCT are a part of Friends of Anthony Russo and in support of the write-in campaign, but that it is not necessarily them exclusively.

LaVelle felt that the organization likely purchased the advertisement due to his position earlier this year on to save money due to declining student enrollment, and for being vocal about teachers not taking a pay freeze.

Additionally, a quick search through the New York State Education Department’s website and the New York State School Boards Association’s website did not turn up any codes or precedents for whether or not this is a legal move.

Russo told Patch Monday night that he has not been involved with Friends of Anthony Russo, and did not expect how serious some people are taking it.

"The whole thing kind of started out as a joke," Russo said of the write-in campaign.

"Personally, I don't expect to win," Russo said.

However, Russo did say that the movement is sending a strong message that the previously proposed idea of closing schools is not being accepted by the community, and said he will be publicly commenting on this after the election results come in Tuesday night at Saxton Middle School.

Lastly, there are two additional propositions up for vote for community input, the budget being proposition one.

Proposition two involves changing future Board of Education elections from the current format of candidates running for specific seats to an “at large” format where the top vote-getters take open seats. This system is what .

Proposition three seeks approval to use excess funds from a project approved in 2007 to continue to make capital related repairs. Jones said these funds involve a previously approved $10 million dollar project that was actually completed with around $8 million. The brochure put out by the Patchogue-Medford School District says that should the proposition go through, the excess will be used for improvements such as replacement of roofs, windows and doors; interior and exterior reconstruction among others. Jones said this would be at no additional cost to the community.

Voting will take place at , , , and Eagle Elementary School Tuesday from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Voters unsure of their registration status or polling place should contact the District Clerk at 631-687-6370. The results will be canvassed at Saxton Middle School starting at 9:15 p.m.

Check back to Patch Tuesday night for breaking results from the district vote.

Updated Monday, 5:02 p.m.: Added information clarifying PMCT's involvement with Friends of Anthony Russo.

Updated Monday, 9:44 p.m.: Added information from Tony Russo.

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