Sayville residents head to the polls
SAYVILLE—On Tuesday, May 21, Long Island residents will decide on school budgets as well as school board trustees. In Sayville, the day will also be an opportunity to vote on a budget for the historical society as well as the public library and trustee. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Suffolk Community College Sayville Center, 30 Greene Avenue. A budget hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 14 in the Sayville Administration Building on Greeley Avenue.
The Sayville Historical Society budget of $75,300 is around $20,000 lower than last year to make up for the amount of money that was allotted to them for asbestos removal in their buildings. The society’s office manager, Rodney Lawrence-Dudley, noted that the work has not yet been scheduled.
The Sayville Library’s proposed budget is $3,952,992. That represents a 1.97 percent increase, which is below the state cap. On a home assessed at $40,000, it is estimated that taxes would increase $10.04 annually.
Louisa Keifer is running unopposed for the one library trustee seat open for a five-year term.
The 2019-2020 proposed spending plan of $94,353,656 in Sayville School District reflects a 0.85 percent increase and is a projected tax rate increase of 2.34 percent. The increase falls at the calculated tax cap (2.34 percent). As a result, only a simple majority is required to pass the budget. On a home assessed at $40,000, there will be an estimated increase in taxes of $180 per year, or $15 per month before the STAR exemptions. The district said the budget would allow them to maintain educational opportunities with challenging programs to help students succeed.
There are three five-year school board seats up this year. Incumbents Maureen Dolan and Norman deVenau are both running unopposed.
Kyle Valentine, Jaime Hechtman-Ulloa and James J. Bertsch Jr. are all running for the seat left open with the passing of longtime board member Debbie Van Essendelft. The winner of this election will complete her term, which is one year and 41 days.
Dr. James J. Bertsch Jr.
Sayville native, longtime educator and community activist, Bertsch said he decided to run for the seat because he believes he can help maintain and even improve the high quality of education in the district. “It’s the most important way I can help my community and my family by shaping our kids into tomorrow’s residents,” he said.
The married father of three middle-school children said he believes in service to the community. He is a founding member of the Greater Sayville Civic Association and has been active in a number of environmental organizations.
Bertsch has worked as both an English and history teacher before becoming a school administrator. He has served in the administration departments of elementary, middle and high schools, previously with the Patchogue-Medford and Connetquot school districts and now with the special education department of Nassau BOCES.
It is his strong background in education that he says makes him a great candidate for the job. “I like the direction in which [our school district] is moving,” said Bertsch, noting that programs such as the Teacher’s College Literacy Program in Sayville that emphasizes reading and writing and the A.P. Capstone that ties Advanced Placement courses together for students are all important to maintain. “We’re committed to programs and training. I want to continue to look at things programmatically and make a commitment to it,” he added.
“I’ve been a school leader for more than 15 years. My [experience] is needed on the school board,” Bertsch said. The candidate noted that there could be some challenging times ahead, such as dealing with a permanent tax cap, decreasing school enrollment and a possible future recession.
“I am deeply committed to this community and I have the experience to help us get through these challenging times ahead,” he said.
Hechtman-Ulloa grew up in Sayville and has lived on and off in the hamlet for over 50 years. Her three children graduated from the district and she now has a grandchild in Sayville Schools as well.
“I came back to Sayville because of my children,” she said. “I wanted them to grow up here. We have an award-winning school district.”
This October, Hechtman-Ulloa will be retiring from her position as a call center representative from Verizon. And she recently returned back to school, now attending St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. “That’s how much I believe in education,” she said. “You’re never too young or too old to learn.”
The candidate said she is running for trustee because “I want to maintain our blue-ribbon quality of education we give here in Sayville, as well as [respect] the mandates of the state tax cap,” she said. “We need to do that as a team.”
Hechtman-Ulloa, who is bilingual, said she has been involved in a number of outreach programs where she involved students in community work. She brought the kids to Ross Park in Brentwood on Thanksgiving to help feed those in need. She is a member of the chambers of commerce in Brentwood and Central Islip and has encouraged entrepreneurship there. She has run clothing drives, food drives and has been a representative for the Latino community for news outlets such as Telemundo, ABC and CNN.
“I’ve been a community organizer forever,” she remarked. “My mother said I should concentrate more on helping my own home now. That resonated with me. It’s time for me to help [Sayville]. I love my hometown and that’s why I’m running,” she said.
Valentine, a native of West Islip, is a five-year resident of the hamlet. “I married a Sayville girl,” he said. They have a 1-and-1/2-year-old son.
The candidate is a teacher/administrator at a school district in Suffolk County. He said he made the decision to run for trustee after regularly attending school board meetings over the past two years.
“It’s something I’ve always had an interest in,” he said. “My family instilled community service in me. I thought this would be a good way to give back to my hometown.”
Valentine said Sayville is well known for the quality of its school district. And that is something he’d like to maintain. He said during the board meetings, he has “heard residents’ concerns” and would keep all concerns in mind if given the opportunity to serve. He noted that one concern is transparency. “There’s more transparency needed between the board and the community,” he said. “They could explain things or follow up [on matters] better.”
A permanent property tax cap is something he sees as a possible issue moving forward. “I will work hard to maintain and enhance programs under the cap,” he said.
Sayville District Budget Vote
On Tuesday, May 21, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Suffolk Community College Sayville Center (the Old Junior High School), 30 Greene Avenue.
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