A $100,859,780 budget and two incumbent trustees running unopposed are on the ballot in the Mineola school district in Tuesday’s election. Board of Education members Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion and Patrick Talty are up for re-election.
Residents will cast absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Voting through the mail … presents unique challenges so this will be a very interesting time for every school district on Long Island,” said Christine Napolitano, president of the board.
Ballantyne-Mannion is vice president of the board. She is a Spanish professor at York College and earned a Ph.D. from Brown University in Hispanic studies. Ballantyne-Mannion has lived in Mineola since 1972, and she and her husband, Luke Mannion, have been active in the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
She is currently running for her third term.
Asked why she is seeking re-election, Ballantyne-Mannion said, “Serving on the Mineola UFSD Board of Education is a way in which I can serve my community and put some of my professional expertise and personal experiences to work for all the children in our district.”
Talty has been on the board since 2017, when he ran unopposed.
“A school district succeeds when the community is deeply involved,” he said. “Mineola has made tremendous strides over the last decade because thoughtful, dedicated individuals committed their time to work with the administration and make the necessary decisions and investments.”
He said that it is due to this sustained effort that the district is able to weather the challenge that schools are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These efforts are paying dividends today as school districts across the nation face stiff headwinds while pivoting to distanced learning,” he said.
He added that he believes the board truly puts what is best for the district at the forefront of decisions.
“I am proud to work with my fellow trustees because we’re unselfish and bring no personal agendas to the table,” he said. “I am running for re-election because I want to remain part of this extraordinary collective that is steadfastly committed to doing what’s best for our students, faculty and taxpayers of our district.”
The budget of $100,859,780 is a 0.9 percent increase over the $99,955,750 budget for 2019–20.
This comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 2.5 percent, below the state-mandated limit for the district.
The budget enables Mineola to maintain all current educational and co-curricular programs, athletics, extracurricular activities, professional development and expansion and replacement of the district’s technology program. It also allows for curricular enhancements including year two of Math Enhancements, dual language in grade nine and a new enrichment program for seventh grade algebra students.
“We are proud of the work the board and Dr. Nagler have done to present a sound budget during very challenging times,” said Napolitano.
The board revised the initial budget to reduce the tax impact on residents, while at the same time expecting a reduction in state aid, Napolitano said. The state has not released the exact amount that districts should expect to be cut.
The uncertainty of what school will look like in the fall – whether students will return to school or continue remote learning, or a combination of both – further complicates the district’s budget plans.
“We are hopeful that school will return in September,” Napolitano said. “There are still so many unknowns so there is no way to predict what the impact on the budget will be.”
“These are very tough times on so many levels and the uncertainty is very unsettling,” she added.
The budget includes a $500,000 operations allocation, which would cover floor and carpet replacement across school buildings, districtwide bathroom upgrades and security camera upgrades. It also includes the repainting of the Meadow Drive School gymnasium and refinishing of the gym floor.
The $453,357 allocated to equipment covers new cafeteria furniture at Meadow and new cabinetry in Meadow’s music room and Jackson Avenue School’s music, art and science rooms, as well as funds allocated to each building and department.
“The Board of Education and I continue to work diligently in providing financially responsible budgets while maintaining the highest level of educational program,” Superintendent Michael Nagler wrote in a letter to community members. “We continue to work toward our goal of containing costs and delivering innovative programs that have an eye on the future.”
That future, however, remains uncertain for school districts across New York, including Mineola.
“Nothing can really be figured out until we know what state aid will be and if in fact, the budget passes or not,” said Napolitano.