In Amityville, the president of the teachers association says he's worried about what could happen if the budget is defeated. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports.  Credit: Newsday/Photo Credit: Barry Sloan; A.J. Singh

A total of 122 school districts of 124 across Long Island reported budget approvals by Wednesday morning, often by lopsided margins, versus only two that failed.  

Winners included East Hampton's $82.8 million budget, which passed 472-116, and which will allow the district to override its state tax-cap limit. Amagansett also pierced its cap with a 148-43 vote on a $13.4 million budget. 

Six districts Islandwide were seeking to override state tax cap restrictions Tuesday as voters Islandwide decided on proposed budgets, property taxes and board candidates. The two districts where budgets failed — Sachem and West Babylon — were among the six seeking overrides.

Farther west, budgets passed convincingly. Voters in the William Floyd district passed a $310.8 million budget, 826-311; in Wantagh, a $91.7 million budget passed, 1,390-455; and Levittown, a $261.5 million budget passed, 1,345-710. 

"We are very pleased to see the results ... that show overwhelming support," said Robert Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. "Long Island's tradition of high quality public education continues to be supported by the voters." 

"I'm so appreciative of our community's support," said East Hampton Superintendent Adam Fine. "They really came together." 

The Sachem district, Long Island’s second largest, failed in its attempt to pass a $377.3 million budget. The vote of 4,176-4,127 was a bare majority but short of the 60% margin required for an override.

Sachem Superintendent Christopher Pellettieri said the school board would meet in the days ahead to decide on steps for a June 18 revote.

“While we are disappointed with tonight’s results, we appreciate all those who came out to vote,” he said in a statement.

In the West Babylon district, a majority of voters approved the budget, but it did not meet the required 60% voter approval. 

"The district is discouraged by the defeat of the proposed budget but respects the voice of our community," said West Babylon Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly. "In the coming days we will plan to present a revised budget for a revote."

Budgets passed in the two other districts aiming to pierce caps: Port Washington, which proposed a 4.55% tax hike; and Springs, which sought a 10.8% tax hike.

West Babylon already had announced it is cutting 22 staff positions due to cost pressures and may have to eliminate more. At a poll site in the district's administration building earlier Tuesday, chief election inspector Mary Ann Romano described voter turnout as one of the heaviest she has seen in many years of supervision. 

"Well, we hate to see taxes go up — we're retired now," said one voter, Brian Miller, a former government worker. 

Other voters who supported the budget often said they felt a personal tie to local schools. 

"We have a kindergartner coming in next year, and my husband works for the district, so it's important to our family," said Katie Armato, a parent of three in the West Babylon district. She added that she knew of teachers with more than 15 years' experience who had either been laid off or told that they might be. 

Islandwide, nearly $16 billion in proposed school spending and $10 billion in property taxes were being submitted to voters as districts gear up for the start of the 2024-25 academic year. 

In addition, 101 special spending propositions appeared on ballots, along with 373 candidates running for boards. 

For the 11th straight year, proposed school tax hikes average less than 3% in Nassau and Suffolk counties — reflecting the continuing impact of the state's strict tax cap law. District officials note they have managed this despite inflationary cost increases, in many cases by eliminating teacher positions through retirements or resignations.

"We believe district superintendents have worked diligently with their board trustees to meet the needs of their students, while being fiscally responsible to their communities," regional representatives declared Monday, in a statement sent to Newsday. "Their dedication and strategic planning are evident in the budgets proposed across various districts." 

The joint statement came from Maria Rianna, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents; and Timothy Hearney, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.  

The great majority of districts — 118 in all — were keeping within cap limits. Even so, the push for overrides in a handful of communities encountered some local resistance.

In Sachem, a longtime taxpayer advocate, Fred Gorman, recently messaged other local residents to register his objections to the district's actions. 

"They're sticking their nose up at the voters," Gorman told Newsday. 

Pellettieri, the Sachem superintendent, had sent his own message to Newsday, saying the district's decision to try for an override "was not made lightly." The schools chief added, however, extra revenues beyond those allowed by the cap were needed to provide students with "the best possible educational experience."

Elsewhere across the Island, many of the spending propositions that appeared on ballots in addition to regular budgets would not cost taxpayers extra money. Instead, funding would be drawn from reserves set aside for school building renovations and other improvements. 

There are exceptions, however. In Baldwin, residents voted on a bond referendum of $134.8 million to build a new high school athletic center and new performing arts center, among other upgrades. 

Reconstruction of a wing of the high school, expected to costs nearly $52 million, would add outdoor learning space and ease hallway crowding. The district expects to receive state aid for the projects and anticipates the cost for 95% of homeowners to range from $11.40 to $22.76 per month, depending on the home's assessed value. Those dollar amounts would be phased in over several years as the projects progress for an overall term of about 15 years, officials said. 

"We do not have any expectations for any reduction of any existing programs," said James P. Robinson, the district's assistant superintendent for business and administrative services. "It's to build upon our programs."

That proposition passed Tuesday, along with Baldwin's budget. 

A Newsday survey that drew responses from 104 districts found a majority at least somewhat hopeful about the fiscal outlook for their schools over the next several years. A total of 58 responders said they were "very optimistic" or "somewhat optimistic," while only 16 expressed pessimism. 

However, another 31 districts indicated they couldn't make financial forecasts due to uncertainty over future state payments of school aid. Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders have agreed to sponsor a research study in the coming year, with an eye toward revamping the distribution of "foundation" aid, the state's biggest source of assistance. 

Check back for updates to this developing story.

A total of 122 school districts of 124 across Long Island reported budget approvals by Wednesday morning, often by lopsided margins, versus only two that failed.  

Winners included East Hampton's $82.8 million budget, which passed 472-116, and which will allow the district to override its state tax-cap limit. Amagansett also pierced its cap with a 148-43 vote on a $13.4 million budget. 

Six districts Islandwide were seeking to override state tax cap restrictions Tuesday as voters Islandwide decided on proposed budgets, property taxes and board candidates. The two districts where budgets failed — Sachem and West Babylon — were among the six seeking overrides.

Farther west, budgets passed convincingly. Voters in the William Floyd district passed a $310.8 million budget, 826-311; in Wantagh, a $91.7 million budget passed, 1,390-455; and Levittown, a $261.5 million budget passed, 1,345-710. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Voters in 124 school systems went to the polls Tuesday to decide on proposed budgets, property taxes and board candidates. 
  • For the 11th straight year, proposed school tax hikes averaged less than 3% in Nassau and Suffolk counties, reflecting the continuing impact of the state's strict tax cap law.
  • Six districts of the 124 were aiming to pierce tax cap restrictions: Amagansett, East Hampton, Port Washington, Sachem, Springs and West Babylon. Under law, overrides require voter "supermajorities" of at least 60%. 

"We are very pleased to see the results ... that show overwhelming support," said Robert Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. "Long Island's tradition of high quality public education continues to be supported by the voters." 

"I'm so appreciative of our community's support," said East Hampton Superintendent Adam Fine. "They really came together." 

The Sachem district, Long Island’s second largest, failed in its attempt to pass a $377.3 million budget. The vote of 4,176-4,127 was a bare majority but short of the 60% margin required for an override.

Sachem Superintendent Christopher Pellettieri said the school board would meet in the days ahead to decide on steps for a June 18 revote.

“While we are disappointed with tonight’s results, we appreciate all those who came out to vote,” he said in a statement.

In the West Babylon district, a majority of voters approved the budget, but it did not meet the required 60% voter approval. 

"The district is discouraged by the defeat of the proposed budget but respects the voice of our community," said West Babylon Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly. "In the coming days we will plan to present a revised budget for a revote."

Budgets passed in the two other districts aiming to pierce caps: Port Washington, which proposed a 4.55% tax hike; and Springs, which sought a 10.8% tax hike.

West Babylon already had announced it is cutting 22 staff positions due to cost pressures and may have to eliminate more. At a poll site in the district's administration building earlier Tuesday, chief election inspector Mary Ann Romano described voter turnout as one of the heaviest she has seen in many years of supervision. 

"Well, we hate to see taxes go up — we're retired now," said one voter, Brian Miller, a former government worker. 

Other voters who supported the budget often said they felt a personal tie to local schools. 

"We have a kindergartner coming in next year, and my husband works for the district, so it's important to our family," said Katie Armato, a parent of three in the West Babylon district. She added that she knew of teachers with more than 15 years' experience who had either been laid off or told that they might be. 

Islandwide, nearly $16 billion in proposed school spending and $10 billion in property taxes were being submitted to voters as districts gear up for the start of the 2024-25 academic year. 

In addition, 101 special spending propositions appeared on ballots, along with 373 candidates running for boards. 

For the 11th straight year, proposed school tax hikes average less than 3% in Nassau and Suffolk counties — reflecting the continuing impact of the state's strict tax cap law. District officials note they have managed this despite inflationary cost increases, in many cases by eliminating teacher positions through retirements or resignations.

"We believe district superintendents have worked diligently with their board trustees to meet the needs of their students, while being fiscally responsible to their communities," regional representatives declared Monday, in a statement sent to Newsday. "Their dedication and strategic planning are evident in the budgets proposed across various districts." 

The joint statement came from Maria Rianna, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents; and Timothy Hearney, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.  

Voters cast their ballots Tuesday at Carrie P. Weber Middle School...

Voters cast their ballots Tuesday at Carrie P. Weber Middle School in Port Washington. That school district is one of six on Long Island aiming to pierce its tax cap. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Most within tax cap limits

The great majority of districts — 118 in all — were keeping within cap limits. Even so, the push for overrides in a handful of communities encountered some local resistance.

In Sachem, a longtime taxpayer advocate, Fred Gorman, recently messaged other local residents to register his objections to the district's actions. 

"They're sticking their nose up at the voters," Gorman told Newsday. 

Pellettieri, the Sachem superintendent, had sent his own message to Newsday, saying the district's decision to try for an override "was not made lightly." The schools chief added, however, extra revenues beyond those allowed by the cap were needed to provide students with "the best possible educational experience."

Elsewhere across the Island, many of the spending propositions that appeared on ballots in addition to regular budgets would not cost taxpayers extra money. Instead, funding would be drawn from reserves set aside for school building renovations and other improvements. 

There are exceptions, however. In Baldwin, residents voted on a bond referendum of $134.8 million to build a new high school athletic center and new performing arts center, among other upgrades. 

Reconstruction of a wing of the high school, expected to costs nearly $52 million, would add outdoor learning space and ease hallway crowding. The district expects to receive state aid for the projects and anticipates the cost for 95% of homeowners to range from $11.40 to $22.76 per month, depending on the home's assessed value. Those dollar amounts would be phased in over several years as the projects progress for an overall term of about 15 years, officials said. 

"We do not have any expectations for any reduction of any existing programs," said James P. Robinson, the district's assistant superintendent for business and administrative services. "It's to build upon our programs."

That proposition passed Tuesday, along with Baldwin's budget. 

Financial outlook: Districts weigh in

A Newsday survey that drew responses from 104 districts found a majority at least somewhat hopeful about the fiscal outlook for their schools over the next several years. A total of 58 responders said they were "very optimistic" or "somewhat optimistic," while only 16 expressed pessimism. 

However, another 31 districts indicated they couldn't make financial forecasts due to uncertainty over future state payments of school aid. Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders have agreed to sponsor a research study in the coming year, with an eye toward revamping the distribution of "foundation" aid, the state's biggest source of assistance. 

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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