The Case For Carle Place School Budget, Candidates

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The district held an in-person moving up ceremony for eighth graders last June after being shutdown for the last three months of the year. Holding in-person classes in the 2020-21 school year was considered a great achievement by the two incumbent candidates. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

If the past is prologue, Carle Place residents should be giving an overwhelming affirmation to the 2021-22 school budget in the May 18 vote. They will also be asked to chose two trustees for the Carle Place Board of Education. Three candidates are on the ballot: Current Vice President Neal McLaughlin and Trustee Joseph LoCurto are seeking their second and fourth terms respectively, while lawyer Peter J. Linken is running for the first time.

The district proposes to spend $51,594,676 next fiscal year, just a shade under a 1 percent increase from 2020-21. The tax levy (amount to be raised by taxes) comes in at 1.43 percent, matching the state tax cap figure assigned to the district. A second proposition asks voters to approve using $1.875 million already set aside in the capital reserve fund to perform renovation work at Cherry Lane School and other district-wide facility/infrastructure improvements.

Both incumbents cite the work of the current board and administration to make their case for reelection. LoCurto noted that he ran because he was angry at the yearly tax increases in the district, and just before he came on board, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced his tax cap to rein in those increases.

“If you look at my history, our budgets—five have been below the cap, the others were at the cap—and we’ve got a nine-year tax levy average of 1.2 percent,” LoCurto argued. “We are providing everything that we need to do to run the school and to educate our students. We’ve been adding things year after year in terms of academics. This year we two new advanced placement classes. We try to add every year to our academics.”

He continued, “When the community looks at that whole picture, I think they’ll understand that we’ve been fair with them year after year. We produce great students. We send a large portion of our students to college—to good schools. And if you look at the way we’ve been doing our facilities, we didn’t put up any bonds for our facilities. We’re doing it out of our reserve funds already approved by the community.”

The use of reserves was also noted by McLoughlin, who has spent 38 years in the private sector in executive positions, including as a construction and project manager.

“We were responsible for overseeing numerous capital improvement projects,” McLaughlin said of the board. “The idea is to improve the schools’ infrastructure. We made significant renovations to improvement to Rushmore and Cherry Lane schools—voted on and approved by the community. The critical thing in all of this, was that it was done without issuing a bond and creating more debt. You save money for the district.”

McLaughlin, like LoCurto, emphasized the teamwork approach to the district’s success, but said what he brings to the table in terms of his work experience—such as budgets or union negotiations—is an asset.

A hopeful sign from last June. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Both incumbents took credit for the hire of Superintendent Christine Finn and gave her props for guiding the district through the pandemic. Most importantly, the collaboration of board, administration, staff, students and parents resulted in pupils being able to return to school for in-person classes in September and avoid the pitfalls of remote learning.

“I have a sincere interest and commitment doing what’s best for the community and for the schools and saving money for property owners,” McLaughlin stated. “I like the expression, “We’re moving upward, not just forward. There’s no reason why we can’t be like the Jerichos. We’ve got comparable education. We’ve got comparable teachers. Of course, we don’t have the [deep pockets].”

The ultimate goal, he said, is to make Carle Place a top tier district.

“I still feel there’s a lot of unfinished work and a lot more that I could accomplish,” McLaughlin concluded.

In favor of the two incumbents, LoCurto put out a mailer which touted a number of achievements, including:

• Adding an honor society for English in 2021

• Introducing training programs for teachers, administrators and parents in support of remote learning

• Purchased computers to support 1 to 1 learning in which every student and teacher was provided with a personal computer

• Offered remote learning for all students not able to attend school due to COVID-19

• Conducted full graduation ceremony for Class of 2020

• Started full-day kindergarten

• Implemented testing to measure student academic progress in math, reading, language usage and science year over year

Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Carle Place Middle High School girls gym.

Peter J. Linken’s Statement

Peter J. Linken. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

As a candidate for the Carle Place Board of Education, I am committed to ensuring that each of our children receive the best education possible in a safe and secure environment. My mother, my aunt, and two cousins each graduated from Carle Place High School, and I have three young sons who will attend Carle Place schools for the next 10 years. As a parent, I have “skin in the game” and will work tirelessly to make sure our teachers receive adequate support to deliver the high quality education and robust extracurricular offerings that our children deserve.

I feel strongly that parents of current students have an important role to play on the board. We see firsthand how the board’s decisions impact our kids and their teachers. We know what is working (and what is not) because we live it each and every day. Never has this been more true than during the past year as we have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. But providing a world-class education (even in difficult times) doesn’t mean running up unsustainable bills or throwing economic caution to the wind. I pledge to be smart, creative, and to find ways to deliver the highest caliber education while maintaining value for all taxpayers.

I will leverage my own academic and professional experiences to guide the decisions I make on your behalf. I possess a Bachelor’s degree from Long Island University, a Master’s degree from The City University of New York, and a law degree from Fordham University. I have worked as an attorney for the past 14 years, and I have extensive experience negotiating with difficult adversaries and thinking outside the box to deliver high quality results.

I’ve come to know many of your over the past decade as a Little League coach, a Little League board member, a lacrosse coach, and the leader of our local Cub Scout Pack. I hope to continue my service to this great community as the newest member of the Board of Education. If you believe it is time for a fresh perspective, I ask that you consider voting for me on May 18.

Joe LoCurto’s Statement

I have lived in the Carle Place School District my entire life. I graduated from Carle Place High School, as did my brother, daughter and son.

Joseph LoCurto (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

I have had the honor of serving as a Carle Place Board of Education trustee for nine years. My priorities as trustee are, for the students, to provide them with an exceptional educational experience, challenging academics, robust music and arts programs, competitive sports teams, modern facilities, 2021 technology and a safe environment.

For the community member, my goal is to keep school taxes low, which means tax increases should never exceed the state-mandated tax cap. Also, to raise Carle Place’s academic ranking versus other Long Island high schools and modernize our school facilities. All of which maintain and improve the community’s property values.

During my nine years as trustee, the board has accomplished many of our objectives in the area of academics, facility improvements and budget expenses.

I am asking you to keep the positive momentum of the current board going forward by please voting for my reelection.

Neal McLaughlin’s Statement

I am a 25-year resident of our community, and I am running for another term to serve as a member of the Carle Place School District Board of Education. I’ve been a trustee since 2018, and serve as board vice president for the 2020-2021 school year. The voting for the school budget and candidates is May 18. I encourage you to come out and vote in favor of the budget resolutions and support my election for another three-year term.

Neal McLaughlin. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Throughout the current calendar school year of 2020-21, faced with a worldwide pandemic challenge, the Carle Place schools, led by Superintendent Christine Finn, along with the administration, teachers, coaches and others, gave Carle Place schools a leg up, as one of a small percentage of schools in the state who strived to maintain full in-person student attendance.

A sampling of my collaborative accomplishments as a board member:

• Responsible for the overarching critical hiring of Dr. Finn as superintendent, as well as new assistant superintendent of business, and director of technology.

• Working closely with my fellow board members and the administration, we have presented four budgets at or below the state-mandated tax levy: 2018-19: 1.99 percent levy, 2.72 percent cap; 2019-20: 1.59 percent levy, 2.82 cap; 2020-21: 1.74 percent levy, 1.74 percent cap; 2021-22: 1.43 percent levy, 1.43 percent cap.

• Providing a challenging curriculum for high school students with Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA), AP courses, and many electives.

• Secured PPE to allow our schools to remain fully open, protecting our children as effectively as possible.

• Served as a member of the High School Scholarship committee for the last two years, awarding financial assistance to many graduating seniors.

• Served on Building Infrastructure Committee with oversight of all three campuses; a key component being off-hour, all-day, building-wide physical interior and exterior inspections to ascertain opportunities for upgrades, repairs, along with safety and code compliance.

Lastly, remember the Heart and Soul of our community are our wonderful schools, paralleling our enhanced home values, a driving force, in making Carle Place one of the most desirable places to live in on Long Island.

My commitment to the community is to assist in setting policy, along with the leadership team of Superintendent Dr. Christine Finn, our administration, and our teachers. The key to our schools and students is to provide an avenue on their continued path of striving for a great education. Our students are the foundation and future of our country.

Peter Linken Opening Statement

Joe LoCurto Opening Statement

Neal McLaughlin Opening Statement

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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