LONG Island voters went to the polls Tuesday on a school election day marked by miserable weather and uncertain economic times. They voted in cafeterias and gymnasiums, some offering support for proposed school budgets, others seeking to hold the line on taxes.
In William Floyd, a longtime married couple from Shirley was divided over the spending plan: Michael and Helen Leo canceled out each other's vote.
Michael voted no, Helen yes. "I'm not going to pay $5 million more and not get anything for it," Michael said.
But his wife said while it's tough to keep paying more in taxes with her husband out of work for two years, "the future children still need a good education . . . I don't like to see the kids get hurt."
Voters in West Babylon appeared polarized by a proposed tax increase that some residents found too costly but others thought was necessary.
The district's proposed budget called for increasing school taxes by 7.13 percent for the average homeowner even as it would eliminate two teaching assistants, three elementary teachers and 10 paraprofessionals. Phil Doumas, 63, said he voted against the budget because he's "had enough of taxes" and wants to see the district scale back.
But Jennifer Cooke, 36, voted yes. "I don't want all the cutbacks. I have young children," she said.
In Levittown, 41 people had voted in the first 45 minutes at Gardiners Avenue Elementary School, poll workers said yesterday.
James P. Ward, a member of the Levittown Board of Education, voted in the early afternoon. He said he noticed a lot of older voters at the polls.
"Prayerfully, it will pass," Ward said of Levittown's $193,543,816 proposed budget. "But I'm not optimistic, I'm a realist."
Marie Guerrier brought her 3-year-old great niece, Samar, to the polls at Uniondale High School. She is caring for Samar and her brother, Axel, 8, who both arrived from Haiti in February.
Guerrier, who has lived in the district 19 years, said her two daughters graduated from Uniondale and are teachers. "I have to support the schools," she said.
But Frank Neal, 64, voted no. Neal said the district overspends. "I think they need a little more fiscal restraint and not to be given just a blank check."
Rebecca Monks, 19, said she came to the polls with memories of attending drama classes at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.
"I voted pro-budget, because I had such a great experience with the drama program," said Monks, now a college student.
Jim Romaine, 64, however, said he voted against the budget - and its 3.54 percent tax levy increase - because "everywhere I look, my retirement funds are being depleted."
Voters at West Hempstead Middle School weighed a tax levy increase of 9.4 percent.
Brianne Rosenstock, 31, the mother of three children not yet in school, said the proposed hike was too much. "If my kids were in school, I'd feel the same way," she said.
Stacy Ezor, 42, who has two children in private school and one in the district, voted yes. "If the state's not providing funding, the community has to step up," she said.