Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00
Following a one-hour wait after the closing of the polls, current Board President Christine Napolitano stepped into the hallway with new Trustee Artie Barnett in tow to welcome him as the newest member on the board of education. Napolitano and Barnett came out on top with 1,373 and 1,161 votes respectively.
Incumbent Trustee John McGrath came in third, with 635 votes. Six votes were cast for Eric Treibman, a write-in candidate.
Even though the seats were battled for at-large (top-two vote-getters win), there was a clear rift between Barnett and McGrath, with the challenger endorsing Napolitano early, indicating he was gunning for the 13-year board member’s seat. McGrath was absent from the vote result announcement last week.
“I’d like to think people were voting for me and not just simply not voting for John,” Barnett said in the hallways of Jackson Avenue School. “I’d like to think people voted for me because I have something to offer and I do have something to offer. For the ones that didn’t vote for me, I have to show them I’m capable.”
His main concern, as he’s stated leading up to Election Day and at Meet the Candidates Night on April 30, is the ongoing teacher contract discussions. He called it his “first order of business.”
“Hopefully now I can find out what’s going on,” Barnett said.
The Mineola American first reported that district officials met with an impartial mediator to discuss current contract quandaries on April 17. The 275-member union has operated without a contract since June 30, 2011.
While there are no salary increases when a district has no agreement in place with teachers, Mineola still has to pay STEP increases, according to the Triborough Amendment in the Taylor Law, which prohibits a public employer from altering any provision of an expired labor agreement until a new agreement is reached.
“It’s a lot more than dollars and cents; there’s language, which is why I want to know where we’re at because a lot of times, it’s just a matter of language, not necessarily percentage points,” Barnett said. “Maybe I’ll spot something that somebody else didn’t spot. I don’t like mediators, I’d much rather if both sides came together for a solution.”
Trustee Terence Hale was unsurprised with the budget passing, since Mineola was one of a handful of Long Island districts to showcase a budget-to-budget decrease from the previous year.
“It’s awesome that it passed,” Hale stated. “It’s a good budget we put out there. I look forward to working with Artie. He cares a lot about the community. It’s going to be fun.”
Concerning McGrath’s departure, Hale wished him the best.
“I still have respect for John…he brings a lot to the table,” Hale said. “I want to thank John for his years of service to this community.”
This is Napolitano’s second term on the board. She indicated that Barnett’s straightforward nature would be an asset to the board once it reorganizes.
“I think he’s going to bring a different approach,” Napolitano said of Barnett. “He’s very plain spoken, I like that about him and I think that we will work well together.”
Napolitano declined to comment on McGrath’s departure.
“I feel very honored being re-elected as I did the first time,” she said. “I want to get back to work.”
McGrath has been on the board since 1999. He said he was disappointed with turnout but chalked it up to the election process.
“I am disappointed,” McGrath stated. “I’ve been through the election process six times and four out of the six times I was successful. You have to respect the process and the choice the voters make. One of my motivations for running was so people had a choice. I didn’t want to see candidates walk in unopposed.”
Mineola School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler announced the overwhelmingly approved 2012-13 budget, 1,249-559, a total of 1,808 votes cast. That’s a 1,019 drop from last year’s total vote count.
“We put out a good budget that kept all of our programs and within our levy cap which was our goal all along,” Nagler said. “We’re very purposeful when we plan, the whole reconfiguration, we’re delivering what we promised, lower tax levies and all of our programs intact.”
The total 2012-13 school budget is $83,992,180, a decrease of $229,458 or a 0.27 percent drop in spending from 2011-12. The proposed tax levy for 2012-13 for Mineola is 1.93 percent, in line with the state-imposed cap, or $76,242,180, an increase from $1,443,803 from the previous levy. The 2011-12 tax levy was $74,798,377.
This is the fourth consecutive year the district has put out a tax levy increase of at least 2.5 percent.