Residents turn out for LI school votes

Amityville residents cast their vote on school budgets Amityville residents cast their vote on school budgets at North East Elementary School. (May 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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Residents headed out Tuesday to vote in districts across Long Island, where 124 school systems are proposing tax hikes averaging just 2.6 percent. That's the lowest regional increase since all districts began same-day voting in 1996.

Many school leaders and others predicted easy wins for budgets, at least in the 107 districts that are staying within their tax-levy limits.

Residents stopped to talk to Newsday about how they were voting.

Compiled by Patricia Kitchen and William Murphy

 

MASSAPEQUA

2.16% budget increase

2.22% tax-levy increase, within the tax-cap limit

 

The Dougherty family came down on different sides of the school budget vote for the Massapequa district as they entered the polling place at Raymond J. Lockhart School.

Eamonn Dougherty, 18, a student at Massapequa High School voting for the first time, said, "I'm probably going to vote 'yes.' It's important for the town to have a good education system." He said that a "no" vote would hurt students who will be in school after he graduates.

His father, Kevin, 56, who works in compliance at a Manhattan firm, said he was a "no" vote. He said that the school board makes decisions "in its own interest without oversight" and that while "in the competitive workplace, wages are sluggish . . . the [school] employees haven't felt any pain."

Edward Sprenz, 71, a retired chemist who also voted "no," said that the district has "too many high-priced administrators . . . I think they can cut more fat."

Votes in favor were cast by Charles Bang, 56, a chief financial officer for a licensing company and a certified public accountant, and his wife, Nancy, 54, a ninth grade school monitor in the Massapequa School District.

"It's a fair budget," said Charles Bang, who was pleased the district had "fit its expenses" within the tax cap.

But another couple leaving the polling place were opposed to the district's spending plan. Mary and Robert Ribbe, who have a grandchild attending a district school, said they were fed up with high taxes.

"My school taxes are more than twice what my general taxes are," said Robert, 72, a retired New York Fire Department captain.

Mary, 65, a retired waitress, said that for seniors on fixed incomes, rising taxes are a problem. "It's killing us," she said.

— Jim Merritt

 


THREE VILLAGE

2.29% budget increase

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4.48% tax-levy increase, exceeds the tax-cap limit

 

Voters in the Three Village district said they were torn between a quality education and taxes.

William Wilcox, 67, retired middle school teacher from East Setauket, said he voted for the budget. He said he was not concerned about the increase in taxes and was more worried about the cuts that would come if the budget is not approved.

"I'm a retired teacher so I'd like to have as many programs and teachers remain as possible," Wilcox said. But, he said, he worries it won't pass. "The vote's always pretty tight so there could be trouble ahead," he said. He also voted for the proposition on buying natural gas, saying, "It will be cheaper than oil, that's for sure."

Jean Taylor, 70, a retired nurse's aide from East Setauket, said she voted against the budget. "How do they expect people to live? They keep raising it and raising it and they have no conscience about it."

She said the district spends too much money on things she thinks unnecessary, like a new gymnasium. "I went to school in Centerport and we didn't have everything these kids have and we all survived and did good," she said. "I'm kind of disgusted with the whole school district and that they have the gall to ask so much of us."

Helena Belanich, 48, a South Setauket resident who teaches in another district, said she voted for the budget. She said she has two children -- one in college and one about to start college in the fall -- and that the district's programs "really served them well, and I want to give that same opportunity to the next generation."

She said she credits the programs with helping both her children get scholarships to college. She said exceeding the cap was a concern, but that it's "more than justified . . . That's why we moved into this district, because we wanted quality programs and education."

She said she also voted for the natural gas proposition because she believes it will save money in the long run.

Kathleen Newton, 47, a nurse practitioner from East Setauket, said she voted in favor of the budget. "I didn't think it was a bad budget," she said. Passing it would be good for property values and she's worried if it doesn't pass, advanced placement classes that benefitted her child who went through the district will be cut.

She has another child in the district and is also worried about middle school athletics being cut. She said she wasn't concerned about the district piercing the cap because she felt the budget came in close to last year's spending plan, and other districts had far higher levies. "I felt they did everything they could," she said. "As it is, they did a lot of cutting. I think they gave us a bare bones budget."

Rosemary Downey, 65, secretary at a private school and a resident of East Setauket, and her husband, Roger, 67, a postal worker, said they voted against the budget because of the tax increase.

"Senior citizens don't need this kind of increase," she said. As for the cuts, she said she is not concerned. "My children are grown and they went to private school anyway," she said. She said she thought the tax cap was "kind of a scam" in that districts could pierce it anyway. She also voted down the natural gas proposition saying, "It may be the way of the future, but for now I'm concerned with my taxes being raised . . . It's getting worse and worse on Long Island. The high taxes forced my children off Long Island and the same may happen to us."

— Denise Bonilla


MOUNT SINAI

0.81% budget increase

4.76% tax-levy increase, exceeds the tax-cap limit

 

Voters said tensions are high in the community and there has been a lot of debate on the budget.

Renee Massari, 32, of Mount Sinai, a high school guidance counselor in another district, said she voted for the budget. If it doesn't pass, she said, "a lot of kids are going to suffer." The state tax cap, she said, "is an unreasonable expectation, especially with Long Island schools."

Caren Taroff, 63, of Mount Sinai, a manager at an eyeglass retailer, said she came out to vote for the budget because it needs 60 percent to pass because it exceeded the cap.

"That's why I came out in this pouring rain to vote," she said. She said the problem is that the community does not have enough industry and that keeps taxes high, yet new commercial projects are frequently voted down.

"People can't get it in their heads that one affects the other," she said. "I'm voting for this budget because I don't want to see my house go down in value any more than it already has."

Mary Jones, 53, of Mount Sinai, a department chair for another school district, said she voted for the budget because she'd "never vote against fellow educators."

As for exceeding the tax cap, she said: "I don't like it, but I don't want to see the kids lose anything else. There are too many teachers being excised all over Long Island."

Elizabeth Capuano, 44, of Mount Sinai, a stay-at-home mom, said she voted for the budget because she fears that home values will go down if the budget gets voted down. Also, "I'm very concerned middle-school programs are going to be cut and once those programs go its very hard to get them back."

She said she's not happy about the tax increase but, "We live in a hamlet. We don't have a lot of industry. We know as homeowners that it is our responsibility, in order to maintain our quality of life, we have to pay taxes."

Randee Silberfeld, 51, of Mount Sinai, a small-business owner, said he voted against for the budget. "What's the purpose of having this tax cap if they're going to put pressure on people by threatening to cut programs?" she said. "It's a great school district but I've had it with the taxes."

Jason Evers, 41, of Mount Sinai, who is self-employed, also said he voted against the budget. "We need to be more conservative with the way we spend," he said. "It's pretty much just a shell game now." He said too much money is being spent on salaries and the community is paying for it.

"You can only suck a certain amount of money out before the community is dry," Evers said. "Well, the community is dry. I think every community on Long Island is. We're reaching that point now where enough is enough."

— Denise Bonilla


BAYPORT -- BLUE POINT

1.96% budget increase

2.29% tax-levy increase, within the tax-cap limit

 

Several voters leaving Bayport-Blue Point High School said they were in favor of the district budget, and they wanted to keep the number of school board members at seven and not provide busing to private schools outside a 15-mile radius.

Amy Bachek, 42, a registered nurse who has two children in the district, voted in favor of the budget and a slate of candidates running as a team, Rebecca Campbell, John Lynch and William Milligan.

"I voted for the new team because I think we need some new ideas here," she said. She hopes to see more educational accountability from the board and would like students to get more emphasis on basics such as spelling and sentence structure.

"You can't just rely on the computer to help you formulate a writing assignment," she said.

Bachek also voted in favor of the two propositions: to keep the board at seven members rather than take it down to five members, and not to raise the school-bus transportation limit for students wishing to attend private school from 15 to 25 miles.

"Limiting the board will limit the views and ideas that are shared," she said. "I'd rather have broader viewpoints."

Gigi Percival, 50, of Bayport, a teacher's aide, voted in favor of the budget. She favors not extending the busing limit.

"We have an excellent school district, and I think if a parent chooses to send their child outside the district it should be on their dime," she said."

Christine Smith, 57, of Blue Point, a retired nurse, said she voted against the budget. "I live in the Town of Brookhaven and the town equalization rate always makes the tax more of a hit, so I'm feeling the crunch on top of my limited budget," she said.

Dan Malossi, 63, of Blue Point, a retired teacher, said he supports increasing the busing limit to private schools to 25 miles. He also supported the budget as he usually does, since he is an educator.

"People who don't choose to go to the district should get as much service as possible for their tax dollars," he said of the busing proposition. He wants to see the board stay at seven members, not five. "The more input, the better," Malossi said.

— Kay Blough


LEVITTOWN

4.0% budget decrease

1.85% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

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At the Gardiners Avenue School, voters were divided -- and in some cases still undecided -- as they entered the polling place.

Al Marrazzo, 42, a Lynbrook schoolteacher, said he would "absolutely" vote in favor of the school budget. "You have to vote for the budget because it's for the kids," Marrazzo said. However, he expressed dismay at the district's plan to lay off 17 teachers because "laying off teachers always hurts the kids."

Martin O'Conor, 54, an engineer, and his son, Sean, 27, both said they voted against the school budget.

"I think they could have done better in lowering the budget," the senior O'Conor explained. Both he and his son said the district spends money on sporting events that should be allocated instead to education.

"I think academics is more important than sports," said Sean, who is a district graduate and is currently unemployed.

Fred Smithline, 58, an accountant who grew up in the district, said he was leaning toward a 'no' vote. He said he voted against the budget last year because of a proposition to increase bus service. "I probably will vote 'no.' I have no kids," he explained. "The taxes are too high and they have too much bus service."

— Jim Merritt


SOUTH HUNTINGTON

1.92% budget increase

3.58% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Polls opened at 3 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station and residents streamed in, many with children in tow.

Many voters said they appreciated what they saw as compromise in the budget.

Kaaren Visslailli, 69, of South Huntington, said she voted in favor of the proposed $142.94 million budget.

"I like that they're not going to cut as many jobs as we thought," the retired secretary said. Visslailli, whose son teaches in the district, said she approved especially of the cutting of an administrative position, so relief can be had for lower-paid teachers.

Full-day kindergarten was preserved in the budget-planning process, a factor that led Emily Meyer, 32, a nurse who lives in South Huntington, to vote for the budget. Her son, Brantlin Fliedner, 5, who held tightly to her hand, is to start kindergarten in the fall, Meyer said.

— Emily Ngo


LONG BEACH

2.96% budget increase

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3.74% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Long Beach school district residents debated outside the polls whether the district's proposed budget cuts were deep enough.

The district's budget proposal calls for a reduction in teaching staff equal to 10.8 teachers, as well as a cut of four part-time aides, three full-time clerical workers, and five other part-time staff members. Middle school classes would also be made larger, and coaching staff would be reduced by five assistant coaches, a junior varsity coach and a middle school coach.

Those cuts -- and the fact that the district's budget fell within the state's tax-cap guidelines -- were not enough to appease Joe Moran, 60, of Long Beach, who said he voted against the budget.

Moran, a retired former ground worker for Northwest Airlines, said the district's performance would need to improve before he would vote in favor of a tax increase.

"Our taxes keep going up and up for the school district and the school district is horrible. Why would I give them more money?" said Moran, who voted at 225 West Park Ave., a senior housing facility in Long Beach.

Mindy Warshaw, who voted at East Elementary School in Long Beach, said she thought the proposed cuts were sufficient, and voted in favor of the budget. Warshaw, 52, an accountant, said she thought the reduction in staff was a wise proposal.

"In any business, there needs to be supply and demand," she said, adding that "the supply of children has decreased."

Turnout at 225 West Park Ave. appeared low because of rain, said Eileen Thomas, a poll worker. However, turnout was strong at East School, said Warshaw.

— Patrick Whittle


GREENPORT

5.78% budget increase

6.86% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

Boys were shooting baskets Tuesday morning in the Greenport High School gym, while voting machines and stacks of ballots were stored against one wall, waiting for the polls to open at 2 p.m.

When they did, a slow stream of voters came, some of them wondering how the district ever managed to have two vacant school board seats on the ballot and only one candidate.

"I really could not believe it. It really surprised me," said Gary Charters, a former Greenport school board president who had come to vote for the budget.

He, like several other voters, was not as much concerned with the district's budget as with a vote in the neighboring Oysterponds school district in Orient, where residents were deciding on giving their high school students the option of taking classes in Mattituck-Cutchogue instead of Greenport.

Charters, 55, said it would not have an immediate impact, since students who are now sophomores would probably stay in Greenport, but in four years things could change, if scores of freshmen decide to go somewhere else.

"The taxpayers cannot afford to run a thriving high school without the [tuition] money from Oysterponds," he said.

While he was looking at the future, Fran and Joseph Borrelli -- who bought a summer house in Greenport 25 years ago and who have lived there full time for 14 years -- were thinking more about the present when they came to vote for the budget.

"It's important to pass the budget," she said. "My grandchild is in this school, but that shouldn't make a difference."

She and her husband, a retired New York City Police Department chief of detectives, both said schools are important to the community. "When we lived in Lindenhurst, we always voted 'yes' too," Fran Borrelli said.

— Mitchell Freedman


WESTBURY

2.61% budget increase

2.0% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Voters in Westbury said they were concerned about cuts to staff, programs and services.

"I voted for the budget," said Marie White, 42, a chef in Queens, as she left the polling place at Westbury Middle School.

"The kids need their programs and the teachers need their jobs," she said. "She wants it to pass, too," said White, who was accompanied by her 16-year-old daughter Janielle, an 11th-grade student at Westbury High School.

Isolene Simmonds, 75, and her husband, Cecil, 78, also came out in the driving rain to vote.

"I have grandchildren and I would like to know they have all the activities they need," she explained. On the other hand, "what's killing us in Westbury is the taxes," added Simmonds, who declined to say how she voted.

— Jim Merritt


OYSTER BAY-EAST NORWICH

2.68% budget increase

2.55% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Workers in neon orange rain slickers were on hand to guide voters toward parking spots as they arrived at Oyster Bay High School, a year after residents defeated a 2011-12 budget.

Most seemed more comfortable with the proposed $51.53 million budget for 2012-13 -- which seeks to hike property taxes by 2.55 percentage points and is within the state cap.

"I wouldn't want to go much higher," Hunter Oates, 29, of East Norwich, said of the tax increase. The math and science tutor voted in favor of the budget -- as he did last year -- and said he "generally" approves of everything on the ballot.

Oates said that though his family has no children in district schools, "We live next door to an elementary school and we want to make sure they have everything they need."

Sherry Rubin, an author and blogger, said she approved of the proposed budget and "votes for the budget every year."

The mother of four daughters, none of whom still attend district schools, Rubin emphasized that the quality of local schools and funding for programs like the ones her autistic daughter, Marisa, used to use are worth the taxes in the budget.

"You have to support it if you want the value of your home to stay," added Rubin, 61, of Muttontown.

She said she also voted in favor of a referendum to spend $1.29 million from capital reserve funds on building improvements and equipment purchases.

"You can't let the buildings fall apart," she said.

— Emily Ngo


HEMPSTEAD

3.92% budget increase

1.98% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

A budget proposal that would reduce staff by 9.5 teaching positions and 20 other staff members drove voters to the polls in Hempstead, where they were also considering a busy school board ballot.

Five candidates, including incumbent Charles Renfroe, were vying for two three-year slots in the Hempstead district, where voters cast ballots at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School.

Voter turnout was heavy -- possibly twice the norm, said Shelley Brazley, one of the school board challengers, who spent the afternoon doing last-minute campaigning near the school.

Hempstead resident Caprice Rines, 44, said she voted in favor of the budget proposal, and added that a "yes" vote allows residents to "hold our elected officials accountable" for the spending plan. Rines said the teacher layoffs could benefit the district.

"There are several teachers that should be let go. We are a failing school district and it's not just because of the students," Rines said.

Rines declined to say who she voted for in the school board election.

Hempstead resident Tracey Beauford, 46, said she voted for challengers Waylyn Hobbs Jr. and Shelley Brazley.

"I want the schools to do better," she said. "We need change."

Renfroe, 67, who came to the school to vote in favor of the budget and for himself, said the proposed job cuts were painful but necessary to make budget.

"With this new cap, it's difficult to keep our staff," he said.

— Patrick Whittle


MIDDLE COUNTRY

3.24% budget increase

4.37% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

Ted Farkas, a retired MTA police officer, came to Centereach High School to cast a "no" vote.

"The governor gave us a cap and I think we should stick to it," Farkas said. "Taxes are just too high and I don't think spending more is going to make a brighter student."

Farkas, who is living on a public pension, said he doesn't blame the teachers. He would like to see fewer administrators and consultants who make "a lot of money," he said.

He said he wants the students to have everything necessary for a good education but some of the "extras" like late-afternoon buses and computers for every child could be scaled back.

"I think [the teachers and the students] are doing their best, but let's face it -- the days of wine and roses are over."

Retired teachers stood outside the Centereach High School polling area handing out yellow fliers, urging voters to support the budget.

The flier asked district residents: "Are our children worth 58 cents more a day?" [That's a breakdown of the tax-levy increase on the average home in the district spread over 365 days.]

Stay-at-home mother Mary Hartner, 57, of Lake Grove, said she came to support the budget because she wants to "preserve the quality of teachers in the district."

Hartner doesn't want to see cuts to student programs and doesn't want school employees to lose their jobs.

She has three grown children ages 27, 25 and 22, who are all graduates of the district. She says they received a good education.

But she does remember a time when they cut elementary school gym class and the children had to exercise next to their desks.

"That was a disaster," Hartner said. "So we've been on austerity budget before and the kids suffer."

Kathleen Hendrickson, 66, of Centereach, came to vote down the budget.

"I feel bad about doing this," said the mother of three Centereach alums. "But when I see three or four principals and what they're making . . . I want the money to go to the students."

Hendricks, who is retired from working with developmentally disabled adults, said she also thinks the teachers in the district and across Long Island get paid well enough.

She and her husband are living on fixed incomes and are finding it increasingly difficult to balance everything, especially because they also have high medical bills.

"It all piles up too fast, so you have to cut somewhere," said Charles Hendricks, 68, a retired facilities worker at SUNY Old Westbury.

— Candice Ferrette


RIVERHEAD

1.99% budget increase

1.73% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

By early afternoon, when the polls in the Riverhead school district had already been open for seven hours, about 150 people had come to the elementary school in Aquebogue to vote on the school budget.

Compared with past years, when there were contested races for the school board and when the district was split over plans to spend $100 million on building renovations, the turnout Tuesday was sparse. There were no contested school board seats this year and -- after eliminating a dozen teaching positions -- the tax-levy increase was just over 1.7 percent.

Still, people trickled in, some out of a sense of duty.

Barbara Reynolds, 60, a secretary at Stony Brook University Medical Center, supported the budget, even though she wasn't completely happy with it. "I don't agree with all those cuts," the Aquebogue woman said. "They're taking away the good things . . . we've got to pay for our future."

Robert Dillingham, 94, was just as certain that he shouldn't have to pay. "I don't know why I should have to pay school taxes. In Atlanta, after you're 62, you don't pay."

Georgia has a complex series of homestead exemptions for people 62 and older, some of which apply only to people who earn less than $10,000 a year.

A machinist who once worked for Sperry Gyroscope and later at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dillingham has been retired for 30 years, and has lived in Aquebogue more than 60 years. "The taxes are much too high," he said, explaining why he voted against the budget.

— Mitchell Freedman


FLORAL PARK-BELLEROSE

4.86% budget increase

6.58% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

Most voters interviewed Tuesday outside John Lewis Childs School in Floral Park said they voted in favor of the proposed budget -- despite the 6.58 percent increase in property taxes -- so the quality of education and programming could be maintained.

Mary O'Sullivan, 67, of Floral Park, said she voted to approve the $27.69-million budget and ballot propositions for a $3.4-million bond for infrastructure repairs and $70,000 for increased bus transportation.

She said after-school programs are priceless to families who would otherwise have to pay for child care or private programs.

"If they're going to cut those kind of programs, then working parents are going to suffer tremendously," said O'Sullivan, a guidance counselor in New York City. "As a taxpayer, it's going to cost me more, but we can't lose those programs."

She called the vote a "catch-22."

Artie Scheer, 46, of Floral Park, self-employed in the restaurant supply business, said he voted for the budget and bond but against the busing.

"I'm not happy about the hike, but I've still got kids in school," the father of two said.

Marc Meighan was still undecided but that he would likely vote in favor of the budget. "I'm irritated that they raised taxes," said Meighan, 42, of Floral Park, creative manager for a watch manufacturer, "but if we vote no, it's going to be doom and gloom."

Rita Cella, 75, of Floral Park, a retired secretary, voted for the budget, saying, "We'd rather have something than nothing."

Decreased school quality could hurt property values, she feared.

— Emily Ngo


NORTH BABYLON

3.32% budget increase

2.53% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

In North Babylon, where passage of the budget hinges on voters' willingness to pierce the tax cap, residents came to vote at Belmont Elementary School with conflicting emotions about the proposed tax increase.

Bill Stoddard, 70, of North Babylon, said he wants future students to enjoy the same level of services as his daughter, Victoria, now 34, who attended district schools. He called the proposed tax increase "fractional."

Stoddard, a retiree who formerly worked for a Hicksville printing company, said he is confident the budget will receive the required 60 percent margin needed to pierce the cap.

"They're slightly over the cap, but just a fraction," Stoddard said. "My daughter went to this school. By the time she was in sixth grade, she was taking advance art classes."

But Steve Smith, 40, of North Babylon, himself a graduate of district schools, said he voted against passage. Smith, who drives an oil truck, said the warm winter hurt his business and he can't afford a tax increase on top of slow business.

"I can't afford the property tax on Long Island and there's not a lot of jobs out there," he said.

Smith jokingly added that he'd "be voting yes" next year if this year's winter is cold and oil sales pick up.

Stoddard, who was also a poll worker, said turnout was steady during the late morning and expected it to pick up after school was out. The North Babylon district typically has strong voter turnout, Stoddard said.

— Patrick Whittle


 

WEST BABYLON

2.35% budget increase

3.64% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Among the voters at Santapogue Elementary School in West Babylon, Jerry Toner, 66, a retired attorney, said he voted no to send a message.

"The board has got to get costs under control," he said. "I want to keep their feet to the fire. I know it's a big job with mandates and pension costs, but it keeps creeping up, and it's driving young people out of the area."

Toner, a 1963 West Babylon grad, said he noticed costs started escalating 15 years ago and he began voting no on the budget occasionally even when he had a child in the district.

Chuck Benvenuto, 33, a teacher in West Babylon, voted on his lunch hour to support the budget. "There's a lot at stake in this election," he said. "Students are really going to get hurt if the budget goes down, not just in extracurriculars but in their test prep programs, too."

Among the budget supporters voting at the Administration Building was Dawn Carberry, 44, of West Babylon, a paraprofessional in the district. "I know the teachers didn't take their raise, and I appreciate that," she said, referring to the agreement for teachers to take a 0.75 percent increase over three years rather than their contracted 2.3 percent for the 2012-13 year. "I don't want to see things cut, but what are we going to have if this keeps going up every year?"

— Kay Blough


ELMONT

2.76% budget increase

6.87% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

Faced with a proposed tax-levy increase that is about 5 percentage points over the state cap, Elmont voters made their way to the polls through Tuesday morning's rain.

Across the street from Clara H. Carlson School in Elmont, yellow signs had been posted urging residents to vote down the $78.6 million budget. "Elmont school budget up 3 times LI average. Vote 'no' on Tuesday," it read.

That's exactly what Dana Smith, 46, of Elmont, a parole officer, said she did. "The taxes are too high and they keep cutting, cutting, cutting programs," she said. "Nassau County used to be the place for education, but they keep scrimping."

Smith said there was consensus among other parents that the budget should be defeated. "When are we going to get a break?"

At another district school, Alden Terrace School in Valley Stream, however, mother of six Suzanna Higgins voted in favor of the budget for "my children's future."

She said she wanted to preserve such programming as guitar lessons, after-school activities and prekindergarten. "Some of us can't afford to do these things privately," said Higgins, 36, of Valley Stream, a stay-at-home mom.

On the funding for the district, she said, "If this is what they need, I might as well" vote yes.

— Emily Ngo


SACHEM

1.22% budget increase

4.2% tax-levy increase, exceeds tax-cap limit

 

Rocco Piscatello, 68, a retired transit worker and 40-year resident of Lake Ronkonkoma, said the school district should be able to operate within the state tax cap.

"That's enough. It's not about the children. It's about these superintendents making crazy salaries," he said.

Piscatello voted down the budget. He said the district needs to do a better job in streamlining its administration. Taxpayers, particularly those living on fixed incomes, are finding it difficult to live in the area, he added.

"The district has plenty of money," he said. "They just don't know how to manage it."

Barbara Kalle, 46, a bookkeeper from Holbrook, came to the Hiawatha Elementary School to vote in favor of the budget because she doesn't want to see programs cut.

"They are breaking the tax cap only by a little bit. If they were seeking to triple it [the tax levy] I would say that's too much," Kalle said.

She supports spending on kindergarten, art and music programs but says that she'd like to see the district use more restraint when spending on sports, particularly athletic travel expenses.

"Unfortunately, when they cut expenses it doesn't seem to be in the right places," Kalle said.

Kalle is the mother of two Sachem graduates. She has been voting in the school board elections for more than a decade and has only once voted "no" on the budget.

— Candice Ferrette


MALVERNE

2.29% budget increase

2.44% tax-levy increase, within tax-cap limit

 

Voters trickled into Howard T. Herber Middle School gym in the Malverne Union Free School District amid intermittent spitting rain and student arrivals Tuesday morning.

Support for the budget and a proposition to fix the roof in the high school gym was high among people who spoke to Newsday.

Yvette Garnes-Findlayter, 49, a college professor, voted yes on the budget, in particular supporting the proposition to spend $312,000 from the capital reserve fund to fix the high school gym's roof and related work. "I want to make sure we have enough money to pay for student textbooks and to keep our kids' activities," she said, "and especially to fix the building."

Laura Casini, 47, of Malverne, also voted to support the budget. "It's very important to me to keep the after-school and before-school programs and intramurals," she said.

Another resident, Joe Gennardo, 51, of Lynbrook, voted yes on the budget and said he thought the board was trying to hold down costs. "I think the tax cap forced them to hold the line, but they did it," he said. "This year's increase was the lowest in a while."

And Aksorn Hongthong, 40, of Malverne, said he supported the budget to fix the schools. "It's a divided district, and it's important that we show support from all ends of the district," he said.

— Kay Blough

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