TODAY'S PAPER
70° Good Morning
70° Good Morning
Long IslandEducation

Two LI school districts hold budget hearings Tuesday

Wyandanch school board President James Crawford speaks during

Wyandanch school board President James Crawford speaks during a special meeting of the panel at the district's Central Administration Building on May 31. Photo Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Two Long Island school districts have called public hearings Tuesday night on budgets for 2019-20 — a last chance for residents to speak out before revotes on June 18.

The Wyandanch district, for the second time, is pushing for a budget with a tax hike that exceeds its state-imposed cap, though by less than the original plan that voters rejected on May 21. The package requires approval by at least 60 percent of those voting.

Eastport-South Manor's revised plan, which stays within its cap, requires a simple majority vote for approval.

Wyandanch will hold a 7 p.m. hearing on a revised $73.3 million budget that would boost spending 2.8 percent and taxes 20 percent, according to district officials. The meeting will be held in the district's Central Administration Building at 1445 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Wyandanch's original spending blueprint would have sent taxes soaring more than 40 percent. On May 21, the plan was rejected decisively, with 332 "no" votes to 149 "yes" votes. 

The new budget, while lower, would add about $920 a year to the average homeowner's bill, according to the district. Some residents said they would not be surprised if the effort fails again. 

"I think more people will vote in favor of it this time, but I still don't think it will pass," said Samantha Lawson, a marketing manager and mother of a second-grader in the district. "The community is fundamentally angry at the way the school board is handling our money."

Lawson was among residents who attended a heated board meeting on May 31, when board members decided on their latest budget after four-and-a-half hours of discussion and deliberation.

At a follow-up meeting on Wednesday, the board approved staff cuts in 16 areas, including districtwide reading teachers, three building administrators and curriculum associates in English, social studies and other subjects.

The district's business official, Idowu Ogundipe, said Monday that details of layoffs and elimination of vacant positions will be discussed at Tuesday's hearing.    

Lawson and other residents said they expect additional cuts in such areas as sports, after-school activities, tutoring and student busing, even if the revised budget wins approval.

The situation could erode further if Wyandanch's budget is voted down a second time. Under the state's tax-cap law, districts that lose two consecutive votes in the same year must freeze taxation for the next 12 months and adopt "contingency" budgets that bar purchases of new equipment and other nonessential spending.

Wyandanch's contingency budget for 2019-20 would be set at $69 million — down more than $2.3 million from the current year's figure. 

Eastport-South Manor will hold a 6:30 p.m. hearing on a proposed $96.5 million budget that would raise spending 3.65 percent and taxes 2.75 percent. The hearing will be held at the district's junior-senior high school, 543 Moriches-Middle Island Rd. in Manorville.  

Eastport-South Manor's tax increase, while keeping within its state cap limit, would add about  $300 a year to the average homeowner's bill, according to data provided by the district. Rates vary slightly, depending on whether taxpayers live on the Brookhaven or Southampton side of the district.

The proposed spending plan is the same as the one that garnered 1,211 "yes" votes to 1,002 "no" votes on May 21. However, the district dropped a $512,411 proposition for hiring extra security guards that was included on its ballot in the first round of voting and that would have pushed the system over its cap. Voters had decisively rejected the security idea.  

After the May vote, district officials declared the budget had won adoption by a simple majority. On Wednesday, however, the state Education Department ruled that the district had erred and that the budget had failed because it needed a 60 percent supermajority. 

That day, Eastport-South Manor's board rushed to set the revote. Now, even some residents who concluded that the board fumbled the original vote believe the budget will succeed on the second try.

"Oh, I expect it to pass, to my chagrin," said one local taxpayer, Joan Breimann of Manorville, who operates a small business with her husband. "I think the people here with children outweigh the people who don't have children." 

Still, uncertainty remains.

Because of the mix-up over the original vote, Eastport-South Manor did not approve a second try until the day after the state's official deadline for taking such action. Joe Steimel, the acting superintendent, said the state's ruling came "as a bit of a shock," but that the system has followed "all necessary legal procedures" since. 

An Education Department representative, who spoke on background, declined to comment on the case on the ground that it might result in a legal appeal.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News