Voters in the West Babylon school district approved a revised budget...

Voters in the West Babylon school district approved a revised budget plan Tuesday. Credit: John Roca

Voters in the Sachem and West Babylon school districts Tuesday approved revised budget plans for the 2024-25 school year that will keep tax hikes within the state's cap limitations.

Sachem's budget plan passed by a vote of 3,355 to 1,573. In West Babylon, the plan passed by a vote of 1,768 to 654.

The districts have cut dozens of positions for teachers and other staff in order to keep proposed budgets and tax hikes within the cap.

Sachem and West Babylon were among 18 districts statewide that held revotes Tuesday because their initial spending proposals were rejected by residents last month.

The Long Island districts — the only two of 124 Islandwide where budgets failed last month — initially attempted cap overrides but fell short of the 60% voter majorities required under the state's strict cap law. Both districts managed to muster simple majorities at the polls last month, so their chances of doing so Tuesday, on spending plans that keep within state limits, appeared good. 

West Babylon's revised budget of $136.3 million for the 2024-25 school year carries a 2.013% tax hike, down from its original proposal of 4.99%. Sachem's revamped plan of $374.3 million calls for a 1.92% tax increase, down from 4.87%. 

West Babylon estimated its new plan would cost taxpayers an extra $14.95 to $19.93 per month, depending on assessed value of their property. Sachem estimates an extra $10.35 to 11.33 per month, depending on the town where property is located. 

Despite reductions, both districts said they are maintaining strong programs. Before Tuesday's revotes, Sachem described a commitment to core curriculum and support services for students. West Babylon specified it would continue to offer full-day kindergarten, athletics and technology as part of its program.

Sachem is the Island's second-largest district, with an enrollment of nearly 12,000 students in central Suffolk County. West Babylon enrolls about 3,600 students in southwest Suffolk.

Officials in both districts advised residents that “no” votes in this second round of voting would have automatically resulted in so-called contingency budgets and tax freezes for the 2024-25 academic year. 

To keep within its cap, West Babylon is drawing down cash reserves and fund balances by $4.6 million. Officials acknowledged that the move, while deemed necessary to avoid further cuts, could result eventually in a lower credit rating and higher costs of borrowing, 

In addition, the district has abolished three administrative positions and the equivalent of 16 full-time teacher jobs, while also canceling all field trips along with some music and art sessions. A ninth grade student health program has been eliminated, along with much of the district's tutoring in reading and math for elementary students who need extra help. 

Sachem's revised budget would cut   21 jobs throughout the system, on top of 70 reductions announced last month. Many of the earlier cuts were through retirement. Employees affected by the latest cutbacks would include eight teachers, five social workers, two librarians and two roving security guards. 

As a result of staffing reductions, the size of each elementary class would increase by about one student. Sixth   grade foreign-language instruction would be eliminated.

With John Asbury

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