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North Bellmore, Uniondale school budgets pass in revotes

North Bellmore residents cast their ballots during the

North Bellmore residents cast their ballots during the revotes of the revised school budget proposal on Tuesday at Newbridge Road Elementary School. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

North Bellmore and Uniondale both won approval of revamped school budgets by lopsided margins in revotes Tuesday night, wrapping up a season in which all spending plans passed in Long Island’s 124 districts.

North Bellmore’s $57.15 million spending plan for the 2018-19 school year passed by a vote of 1,268 to 712. The revised budget includes a spending increase of 3.31 percent, compared with 3.45 percent in the initial budget rejected last month. The revised tax levy increases 3.2 percent, rather than the 3.4 percent in the original.

“We feel great,” said Mark Schissler, assistant superintendent for business in North Bellmore. “The community was very supportive as we thought they’d be. Now that we have a budget in place, we can move forward.”

Uniondale, meanwhile, reported that its revamped $196 million budget passed by an unofficial vote of 836 to 452. That count is to be officially confirmed Wednesday.

The plan will raise spending by 4.7 percent, down from the 5.41 percent increase defeated on May 15.

The district’s tax levy — that is, total revenue raised by property taxation — would drop 0.07 percent, compared with a 0.99 percent hike included in the original plan.

“Our district is fortunate to serve a community so passionate about the success of its young scholars,” said William Lloyd, superintendent of Uniondale schools in a prepared statement. He went on to say that the approved spending plan minimized the tax impact, while preserving “excellent” student programs.

Earlier Tuesday at Walnut Street Elementary School in Uniondale, several voters complimented the district for revamping its budget downward in order to provide a tax cut.

“I think that’s awesome — they structured it in a smart way,” said Nancy Kalafus, a retired school administrator who formerly worked in a nearby district.

Others observed that Uniondale’s spending plan, while slightly reduced, maintained a rich variety of extracurricular programs in the arts, music and athletics.

“Whether it’s theater, art or physical education, it gives the kids something to do,” said voter Neil Kreinik, a retired New York City school superintendent.

North Bellmore’s restructured budget also won praise from some residents voting at the district’s Newbridge Road Elementary School.

“I live in the district and I wanted the budget to pass for the kids,” said voter Samantha Rosen, who has a son enrolled in the high school system, which serves North Bellmore.

Fradell Serpe, a homemaker who voted along with her 18-year-old son, Matt, said this was her second “yes” vote.

Revotes on rejected school spending plans have become a rarity in recent years — a development due, in large part, to increased public satisfaction with school budgets subject to state-imposed tax-cap restrictions.

The state’s cap law, which took effect in 2012, sets annual restrictions on tax increases and requires districts to freeze taxes whenever budgets are defeated twice in the same year.

The revised budget proposals in both North Bellmore and Uniondale kept within the districts’ caps.

In recent weeks, Uniondale has faced what local officials conceded was a challenge in winning back support from local residents, including a growing number of retirees living on fixed incomes. The district’s initial budget, though well within its cap, went down by a vote of 1,009 to 847.

The district enrolls about 7,200 students and is Nassau County’s third largest.

The spending plan also freezes salaries for top administrators and limits raises for teachers to annual “step” increases already built into their salary schedule.

North Bellmore, like Uniondale, did not attempt a cap override last month. Moreover, the district’s proposed budget drew support from a small majority — 1,322 to 1,231.

The plan went down, nonetheless, due to a legal twist.

Two groups of community residents had petitioned for extra student busing, forcing the district to put special spending propositions on the ballot that would have pushed the budget over its cap. As a result, the spending proposal fell under the provision of the state tax-cap law requiring a 60-percent supermajority to pass, and fell short.

The district enrolls about 2,050 students.

The amended budget required a simple majority to pass, because it is not accompanied by any special spending propositions.

District administrators said a large part of the approved spending increase will pay for bond borrowing by the local public library, not the school system.

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