Mineola voters OK spending, school board candidates

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Patrick Talty was elected to his first term on the Mineola school board on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Talty)

Mineola school district voters approved $98.6 million in spending, elected a new school board trustee and re-elected the board’s vice president on Tuesday.

The district’s $94.4 million 2017-18 budget passed by a margin of 796 votes to 233, and a proposition to spend $4.2 million from a capital reserve fund passed 756-252.

Vice President Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion won a second three-year term unopposed with 769 votes, and Patrick Talty won his first term unopposed with 755 votes.

Talty, a Brookhaven National Laboratory engineer, will replace Trustee Nicole Matzer, who is stepping down after four years on the board, the third change in membership in three years.

Talty said one of his primary goals is to increase parent involvement in the district. He pointed to the “anemic” voter turnout on Tuesday as evidence of room for improvement, though he said that’s not exclusive to Mineola.

“Children know when their parents are involved, and I think it makes them sit up a little bit straighter in school,” Talty said Wednesday.

The budget contains a 0.89 percent increase in property tax revenue, the maximum allowed this year under the state’s tax cap law.

The capital reserve money will pay for a second gymnasium at Mineola High School and an expansion at the Meadow Drive School.

The projects are among millions of dollars worth of work the district has taken up in recent years. Voters also approved $7 million in capital reserve spending in 2015, but some large projects at the Hampton Street School have been delayed by the state Education Department’s backlogged review process.

Talty has said he hopes to continue the district’s recent emphasis on giving students “modern” learning environments.

“Big strides have been made over the past couple years, and the community, again, those that voted, voted overwhelmingly in support of continuing that,” Talty said.

While she thinks the entire district budget is important for students, Ballantyne-Mannion, a Spanish professor at York College in Jamaica, Queens, said she is “most excited” about the capital projects.

“[W]e are creating the learning spaces that will allow our programs to flourish and our students to thrive,” she said in an email.

Among the district’s biggest challenges in the next three years are the unpredictability of pension costs for teachers and possible changes to federal health care policy, Ballantyne-Mannion said.

“But we plan very carefully and these do not worry us — we have a history of taking our responsibility to our taxpayers very seriously and spending wisely so we can do what we need to do and for what we want to give our students,” Ballantyne-Mannion said in her email.

Talty said it will be “an honor” to serve on the board with Ballantyne-Mannion, whom he called “a very strong voice on behalf of the children of the district.”

Ballantyne-Mannion said she looks forward to serving with Talty, who she thinks will be “a great colleague.”

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