Zero tax increase for Connetquot
Connetquot candidates: Ferraioli, Hochstein, Panico, and Warshaw

Zero tax increase for Connetquot

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
5/3/2018


BOHEMIA—Residents in the Connetquot School District will be heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 15 a little more lighthearted than in years past. That’s because the proposed budget of $192,870,820 to be decided that day will result in a zero increase in school taxes.

In addition to the budget, there are two other propositions to be decided. Proposition 2 is for the renaming of a building in the district. The Central Office Administration Building will be renamed Helen R. Maloney Administration Building in honor of a former employee. Cost of signage and dedication plaques are estimated to be less than $5,000.

Proposition 3, if passed, will increase the number of positions on the board of trustees from five to seven members. An appropriation to hold a special election will not be more than $90,000.

In addition, there are four candidates running at large for two seats on the board. They are listed below.

The polls will be open at Connetquot High School, as well as the Oakdale-Bohemia and Ronkonkoma middle schools, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Nicholas Ferraioli

A 12-year resident of the school district, the candidate is seeking his second term on the board where he is the current vice president. Ferraioli and his wife have three children who all attend Connetquot schools.

An educator in the Brentwood School District, Ferraioli said, “I’ve lived my life educating children. The children of Connetquot are very important to me.”

He said he’d like to serve another term to continue the board’s good work. 

Among the changes he has spearheaded during his tenure is a more comprehensive math program for the district. Since Connetquot is also a Common Core opt-out district, he said he has worked to bring more information about the state testing to parents “so they know their rights,” he added.

He’s gratified that the board worked to get all of the school’s 833 doors changed to more high-tech security by using money from the fund balance. “We should get back 66 percent of it from the state because it’s a capital improvement,” he added.

Ferraioli said he’s proud of the fact that the district is using a fund balance to bring a zero percent tax increase to residents. “I’ve been pushing for that,” he noted. “It took three years to get that done.

“Next year we have a good chance of doing it again; we’ll see.” 

Robert Hochstein

This is the first time the candidate is running for trustee. However, he is very familiar with the district. The 20-year resident is retired from Connetquot Schools, where he was facilities director.

Hochstein has three children and also two grandchildren who graduated from the district. He said that he’d like to remain involved and become part of the decision-making process that’s taking place there.

“I want to make a difference for the community,” he said. “I saw some things I [didn’t like] – the infighting on the board and in the district.” He said he would work to make sure that some of the divisive issues would be addressed.

“I want to help the district move forward in a positive direction without affecting the students and staff in a negative way,” he said.

Noting that the proposed budget this year calls for a zero percent tax increase, he remarked, “that will change” in the years to come. “I want to make sure nothing gets taken away from the kids.”

Eileen Panico

Eileen Panico is no stranger to the school board or running for trustee. She attends all meetings and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board in 2016. She hopes to make it on the board this time around.

“I’m the only candidate who lost and continued attending board meetings,” she said. 

The 22-year resident of the district has a background in accounting, but said she considers herself to now be a full-time volunteer. She and her husband have three children: two graduated from the district and one is still a student in the high school.

When Panico was asked why she wants to run again she remarked, “There are plenty of reasons,” but noted that transparency is a concern. That’s why in 2015 she began taping all of the board meetings and created a Facebook page for questions to be answered from people who were not able to attend meetings. She said she did that because “I felt we were getting off track.”

When the district was audited several years ago, she said she was concerned because the findings were that it was $33 million over budget. “I began to watch that,” she said, and began to sit on the district’s Budget Advisory Committee. 

“The board didn’t take our [suggestions] seriously,” she noted. “There was still a spending increase and too much money in reserve. As of last year, $19 million [was in reserves]. It should be only 4 percent of the budget, which would have been about $7 million. That bothered me.”

Panico said part of the problem is that the district is very “top heavy” with administrators and department heads. “We need to do more for our kids,” she said. “I care very much for the kids.”

Mark Warshaw

This 17-year football coach in the Connetquot District is throwing his hat into the ring for trustee. The 20-year resident of Bohemia said he’s running for office because “I feel a connection to the kids in the district,” noting that he wants to build on better communication and help to foster more affable relationships between the school board and the community, especially after seeing too much discord at the board meetings.  “I feel I can make a difference,” he said.

Warshaw owns his own marketing business that’s based in Bohemia. He is the father of two grown sons – his eldest is in the U.S. Army and he has a son who is graduating from the district this year and plans on attending Hofstra University come fall. He lost a son at age 2 in 1993, a loss that is still keenly felt. “It never goes away… but it made me stronger,” he added.

One of the ideas he has if elected is to work toward offering more programs for students as well as parents such as drug awareness education. He’d also like to see more activities such as social events in school for the kids “so they’re not at home with nothing to do,” he said. “We’re lacking that socialization.”

Warshaw said although he is no longer coaching, he still has a close connection with many former players and their families. “Parents said I cared more about the kids than the game,” he remarked.  “These kids are like my family. They’ve always given back more than I’ve given them.” And so he said he’d like to work for their future. “I’d like to see us all working together on the board for a common goal,” he added.