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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?

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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al dumancela May 14, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I think it's an outrage that they seek to pass this budget by increasing out taxes again... My biggest objection after looking at the proposed budget is the biggest increases go to benefits such as healthcare,dental and buyouts. Why in the world should I have to pay for an increase in their benefits by having my taxes raised????
Bunnie May 14, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I am extremely pleased at our Board this year who through tough and contentious times have come up with great ways to stay within the tax cap and save money and teachers positions while not hurting our children or closing down schools!! WAY to go PM VOTE YES!!!!!!!!!!
pat medford May 14, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Attention Patchogue Medford Voters: On May 15th for the Board of Education...write in vote for Anthony Russo (Must be written in this way) Anthony Russo's deeds and actions speak volumes *FACT: Anthony Russo voted in March to keep 2 schools Oregon and South Ocean Middle Schools open. William LaVelle voted to close them *FACT: Anthony Russo stands for increasing student opportunity and safe guarding taxpayers *FACT: We need Anthony Russo back on the Board of Education
Bunnie May 14, 2012 at 02:51 PM
agreed !!!!!
Jon Thomas May 14, 2012 at 02:55 PM
The union should be called to task for trying to game this election. I have personally seen a letter by Paul Pecorale the union President orchestrating the write-in effort; he sent it to all NYSUT members. Behind the scenes scheming like this should not be tolerated. It appears to me what they have done is to get a teacher on the board without a challenge (the Russo drop out for the teacher Rignola). Now they wish to get Mr. Lavelle out because he has publically said they must take a hard line during this year’s contract renewal. I for one will be sending a message tomorrow with my vote. I will vote no, to wake up the union. The Board can resubmit it again, but I’d be asking for cuts now. To make it clear how my vote is going I’ll write in Paul Pecorale against his candidate, Rignola. (Since he doesn’t live in the district he can’t assume the position). Let the Union know they can’t stack the Board.
Jon Thomas May 14, 2012 at 02:55 PM
The union should be called to task for trying to game this election. I have personally seen a letter by Paul Pecorale the union President orchestrating the write-in effort; he sent it to all NYSUT members. Behind the scenes scheming like this should not be tolerated. It appears to me what they have done is to get a teacher on the board without a challenge (the Russo drop out for the teacher Rignola). Now they wish to get Mr. Lavelle out because he has publically said they must take a hard line during this year’s contract renewal. I for one will be sending a message tomorrow with my vote. I will vote no, to wake up the union. The Board can resubmit it again, but I’d be asking for cuts now. To make it clear how my vote is going I’ll write in Paul Pecorale against his candidate, Rignola. (Since he doesn’t live in the district he can’t assume the position). Let the Union know they can’t stack the Board.
Robert May 14, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I guess you don't have children... this budget seems better then other school districts on the Island.... So you should be happy you live here and if not you can always move someplace upstate.
Robert May 14, 2012 at 08:36 PM
@Jon... It is a free country! I am not a teacher but maybe haveing an educator on the board wouldn't hurt.
pat medford May 14, 2012 at 09:13 PM
@ Jon....I am not a teacher or affiliated with the teacher's union in any way. This is a community movement that was started by residents whom wanted to see Anthony Russo remain on the BOE. There is nothing illegal about a write in ballot and people can write in whom ever they want for a position.
jared May 14, 2012 at 09:36 PM
this budget is disgraceful t the local tax payer. this why I continue to refuse to buy a house. Wake up Long Island, this is why your youth is leaving and/or refusing to buy property. TAKE A PAY FREEZE LIKE EVERY BODY else has too. I'm a union worker too,and I just had to take a 6.25% pay decrease. NO reason why teachers are immune to austerity.
Jon Thomas May 14, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I didn't say there was anything illegal about the process. I said I feel it was unethical and the unions actions should be called into question. Why are they trying to influence an election to this extent in a year in which their contract comes due? Draw your own conclusions? There is no community movement, the union started this process and I posted the letter to prove it. If Mr. Russo wanted to run all he need to was re-apply for his old seat. He gave it up and the community should view that as his clear intent and not give into these games.
Robert May 14, 2012 at 10:15 PM
This budget is disgraceful? Have you seen other school districts? This budget is good compared to others! Sure teacher's have it good with salary and benefits and thats most of the budget... but why hurt the kids? And why hurt the community? Houses dont getbought or sold in communities on austerity budgets or empty boarded p schools... Go rent someplace else...
Melissa morana May 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Voting no is voting for decreased services for our children. It will not force the teachers to take a pay freeze or change their contract. It WILL decrease the quality of education our children receive. Don't let that happen! Vote yes! A quality education needs to be paid for, that's just how it works here on Long Island.
Pat-Med Teacher May 15, 2012 at 01:47 AM
As a PMCT member, I am embarrassed by the actions taken by our union.  I hope the community looks beyond the games and realizes the real facts.  Mr. LaVelle has made numerous decisions for our community and they have played an integral part in many of the successes of this district and to attack one of his decisions that was supported vocally by many administrators and board members prior to the meeting with the community, is wrong.  Mr. LaVelle is a member who is willing to go against the grain at times and question authority to a point where the teacher's union, and some unknown friends, feel the need to purchase full ads in the Advance to remove him. Read the facts and decide if you want a "silent rock" member or one willing to stand up for what is right for our community!
al dumancela May 15, 2012 at 02:59 AM
@robert--- our school district is a blemish when it comes to the real estate market but more importantly I do not care what the other district budgets are. We are talking about this district and again why should I have to pay with my hard earned money higher taxes so that these over paid teachers have their benefits increases. Id gladly pay higher taxes for better learning and the hiring of more teachers but not the increase in their benefits. Have them pay into their own health insurance and pensions like everyone else in the private sector. Then people ask why the county is broke. This is the very reason...you make cuts in the wrong areas of the budget yet increase benefits.
Christie May 15, 2012 at 11:37 AM
@Pat - Med Teacher you should be ashamed of yourself. If you worked for me that comment would of had your fired.
Christie May 15, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Please write in Anthony Russo for school board member and please support the budget. Support Education, Support your children, Support this community!
Mickey Visco May 15, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Vote YES on the school budget (It isn't that bad as someone mentioned above)...I have THREE kids from Pre-K to 6th that go here...and so far they have ALL done excellent in this district. In teh grand scheme of things..if you live in Long Island you are going to have to pay for increases...since that is the case, might as well have them for the children's sake. Also Vote for Rignola, you really couldn't find someone who cares about the district as much as she does!
Disgusted! May 15, 2012 at 06:44 PM
PMCT refused to take a freeze, refused to take a decrease, refused a concession. DId the entire PMCT membership vote on this, or, was it the decision of the PMCT executive board only? I know for a fact that the last hired teachers would have conceeded to save thier positions & their colleague's positions. PM community needs to be aware that obviously the PMCT is being led by anarchists, conniving leaders,(as seen by Advance article) & senior teachers within 5-10 years of retirement who are never going to concede or decrease their benefits if they can help it (Obviously!). They will let their younger qualified dedicated teachers lose their positions than take a minimal cut or freeze like the rest of our country. Why does PMCT board think they are beyond our economic times? Mr. LaVelle is a realist and a very dedicated community member & the only reason he would consider closing a school would be to better the eduational opportunities for PM children. If the PMCT conceeded, the topic would not have to be considered. PM coomunity needs to be aware & be careful now of PMCT contract negotiations, Adminitsrators raises ( FYI- some raises are being proposed at $25k) eventhough the superintendant took a 'freeze'.
Disgusted! May 15, 2012 at 07:03 PM
FYI - There are a lot of Anthony Russo's as residents in Patchogue!! HMMMM Did the teachers unions in districts where they are closing schools (Smithtown, West Islip, etc.) illicitly rally against nominees running for BOE positions who upheld their responsibilty to be fiscally sound decsion makers for the children of their communities? I wonder why not? * FACT - PMCT is desperate to have puppets * FACT - LaVelle makes decisions based on economic reality & fairness. *FACT - Reality is if a drastic change does not occur, if administrators receive huge raises, PMCT does not take a hit, you can thank them peroisnally for your taxes being raised in the years to come. *FACT - you can thank Mr. LaVelle for helping bring back BOCES programs, maintaining sports programs, upholding AP classes, sustainiing security & discpline in schools, & accountability in district office. * PM community needs LaVelle on board to uphold the highes standards!
Jon Thomas May 15, 2012 at 07:42 PM
So here's a quick question, name one idea offered by the "Solid Rock" candidate the Union is trying to get back on the Board? He was there for six years. Still thinking? So am I. I can't think of one thing he offered, no ideas, no ways to save money and increase opportunities for the students. Maybe he was a Rock.
AlbertShankerFan May 15, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I do not believe for one minute that "Pat-Med Teacher" is a member of The PMCT.
AlbertShankerFan May 16, 2012 at 02:34 AM
The headlines read: High Number of Write-In Ballots Reporting At Polling Sites
Resident X May 16, 2012 at 02:12 PM
@Pat-Med Teacher- Not a chance that you are an actual Pat-Med Teacher.

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