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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Millburn Elementary D24, 2-year term
Family: Married to Joe Gattone. Two children at Millburn West; Sarah and Matthew.
Occupation: I am currently not working so that I may be home for my kids.
Education: B.S. Architectural Engineering, Milwaukee School of Engineering, 1986
Civic involvement: Village of Lindenhurst Plan Commissioner, 2003-2007
Village of Lindenhurst Plan Commission Chair, 2007-present
Millburn West PTO, Vice President, 2009-present
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Our school must stay on a continued course of financial responsibility. This means maintaining a balanced budget every year.
Key Issue 2
Achieve the highest quality of education possible while maintaining a balanced budget.
Key Issue 3
Developing a long term plan to pay off our existing $3.5M+ in tax anticipation warrants.
How satisfied are you that your district is preparing students for the next stage in their lives, whether it be from elementary into high school or high school into college or full-time employment? What changes, if any, do you think need to be made?
Our students are very well prepared for moving on to high school. Millburn has scored in the top 5% in the State on the ISAT. We've also been awarded the Bright A+ Award. We need to plan our budgets so that we can update our curriculum at some point in the future. We will always need to keep our eye on technology to prevent our students from falling behind their peers.
What budget issues will the district have to confront? What measures do you support to address them? If cuts are needed, be specific about programs and expenses that should be reduced or eliminated. Do you support any tax increases for local schools?
According to information on Millburn's website, 2010 was the first truly balanced budget in several years. For the four years prior to 2010, Millburn spent an average of $1.87 million more than they received in revenue. This planned overspending depleted all reserves and has resulted in debt over $3.5M.
Because Millburn doesn't have cash reserves, maintaining a balanced budget is the biggest financial issue the district will continue to face. Since the district is already very lean in its budget, it will be a very difficult, long term project to develop a reserve or pay off the tax anticipation warrants it relied on in the past. The November 2010 Referendum, failed.
According to documents presented at public forums approximately $1.6 million in cuts have to be made for the 2011-12 school year, instead of approximately $600,000 in cuts had the referendum passed. There will need to be a complete financial analysis of our current building configurations, coupled with our declining enrollment projections, to determine what combination gives our district the most economical means to continue to give our children a high quality education. All options will need to be considered to keep our school viable both academically and financially.
I hope it doesn't come to this, but there may come a time the district decides it can't continue to increase core class sizes in order to keep such things as sports, music, band or art. It is difficult to predict what cuts may or may not be needed in the future, because no one knows what the State will do. Unfortunately, the State requires school districts to budget assuming receipt of all funding the State has said the district should receive.
When they pay late or announce cuts mid-year, it causes unforeseen cash flow problems.
Even though the State just passed an increase in our personal income taxes of 2%, I don't believe they have indicated our schools will see any additional money in the next few years, although they may get paid in a more timely manner. At some point in the future, I feel the district will be obligated to ask taxpayers for additional money in order to purchase basics like new curriculum and textbooks. It will be up to the voters to decide if our schools will get more money.
Is experience as a teacher or support from a union valuable because it suggests educational insights or detrimental because it creates pro-teacher bias? Please clarify whether you have such experience or would accept union support.
Any life experience may be detrimental or advantageous depending on the particular situation. I do not have any experience with teacher unions or school contracts. Millburn is a non-union district. I don't anticipate the teachers bringing a union into the district in the near future.
As contract talks come up with various employee groups, what posture should the board take? Do you believe the district should ask for concessions, expect employee costs to stay about the same as they are now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
The Board of Education has already worked with the district staff to make concessions while renegotiating their contract to reduce raises to 2% thru 2012. The administration also agreed to freeze their own pay. Because of our nation's and state's economic issues, I think everyone has shown a willingness to work and make sacrifices together. While there have already been concessions, more may be necessary in the future.
If your district had a superintendent or other administrator nearing retirement, would you support a substantial increase in his or her pay to help boost pension benefits? Why or why not?
I believe the contract currently in force for both the teachers and administrators include a provision for up to 6% increase if certain conditions are met prior to retirement. We would have to fulfill our end of the contract.
I think in the future we need to look at all avenues to reducing our expenditures, those increases being one of them.
That being said, we also need to remain competitive with other districts in order to retain our quality personnel, and we already have one of the lowest paid teaching forces in the county. If the retirement package is one of the things that keep teachers in the district, that would also need to be taken into consideration.