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Budget revotes set for Tuesday in 4 Long Island school districts

Three Village school board member Jonathan Kornreich at

Three Village school board member Jonathan Kornreich at a meeting June 2 in Stony Brook. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Four Long Island school districts will make last-ditch efforts Tuesday to win approval of budgets, in revotes that are focused largely on the issue of state-mandated tax-cap restrictions.

Three districts — Bridgehampton, Three Village and Wantagh — still seek to override their state-assigned caps and raise taxation beyond usual limits. A fourth district, Northport-East Northport, is keeping within its cap but struggling to overcome public resistance to a recent decision to close two elementary schools in the fall.

All four systems failed in May to pass budgets covering the 2021-22 school year, which starts July 1.  

Attempts to pierce caps have generated friction in districts such as Three Village, which serves about 5,400 students in the Stony Brook and Setauket communities. At a June 2 public hearing there, more than a dozen residents lined up to register objections to the district’s handling of its budget and other issues.

Carmine Inserra, owner of a locally based computer services firm, cited census figures and other data he said raised questions regarding school costs versus student achievement.

"It’s clear that the district’s performance is not commensurate with its spending," said Inserra, who serves as first vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce.

District authorities responded that the data cited by the business leader did not provide a full picture of achievement. One resident also testified in defense of the district’s record.

"The data I care about is my second grader coming home and telling me how much she learned," said Christy McGuire, a local parent who teaches in another district.

Here are details of budgets on Tuesday’s ballots:

Bridgehampton: Voting from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the school gym.

The district’s proposed $20.6 million budget would raise spending 8.81%. The projected increase in the tax levy, which is total revenues raised through property taxation, was lowered last week to 6.49%. But that reduced figure still exceeds the cap and requires a 60% voter majority to pass.

A second voter rejection would force the district to operate on a contingency budget, which would reduce spending by $1.46 million. Local officials said this would result in elimination of programs including sports, prekindergarten and summer camp.

Northport-East Northport: Voting from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Fifth Avenue, Dickinson Avenue and William J. Brosnan schools.

The district’s proposed $174.6 million budget has been trimmed slightly from the original. The revamped version calls for a 1.12% spending increase and a zero tax change, which is within the district’s cap and needs only a simple majority to pass.

A second-round budget defeat would force Northport to operate under contingency conditions that would reduce spending by about $2.1 million.

One result, officials said, would be probable cancellation of playground construction at two middle schools. The project was meant to coincide with a cost-cutting move that will close two elementary schools and move fifth graders to middle schools in the fall.

Three Village: Voting from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the high school.

The district’s proposed budget of $222.6 million remains unchanged from the first round of balloting, with a 1.75% spending hike and a 1.85% tax increase. The plan exceeds a state-imposed cap and requires a 60% voter majority to pass.

A second voter rejection would require the district to operate on a contingency budget that would cut spending by about $2.4 million. This could result in increased class sizes and reductions of elective courses, though local officials said any changes will be minimal.

Both Three Village and Wantagh said quirks in the cap system meant they would lose more revenue by staying within state limitations than by moving to contingency.

Wantagh: Voting from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Forest Lake, Mandalay and Wantagh elementary schools.

The district’s proposed $82.7 million budget, which has been reduced from an original $83.5 million plan, would raise spending 1.88% and taxes 1.96%. This still exceeds the cap and requires a 60% voter majority to pass.

Wantagh’s plan would cut 28.5 positions from the district’s current staff, including administrators, teachers, aides, clerical workers and security guards. Elementary class sizes would be increased, and sports teams combined in seventh and eighth grades.

A second budget defeat would result in a contingency budget that would reduce spending another $1.2 million. Officials said this would eliminate additional programs, including instruction for gifted and talented students, third grade orchestra and elementary-level world languages. Officials added that secondary class sizes also would increase, with some rising to 30 students or more.

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