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4 LI districts head to polls early in acknowledgment of Jewish holiday

Lawrence voters will consider a school budget of

Lawrence voters will consider a school budget of more than $102.4 million, elect two board members and decide a handful of propositions that include items such as classroom renovations. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Residents in four Nassau County school districts will go to the polls Tuesday to vote on school board candidates and their annual budgets in an election scheduled a week earlier than most systems because of the Jewish holiday Shavuot.

Great Neck, Lawrence, Hewlett-Woodmere and West Hempstead received permission from the state to hold the voting before the statewide date of May 18, also the date of the holiday. The Long Island districts will join three other systems statewide in early voting.

"Changing the date is an acknowledgment of the diverse needs within this particular community, and we are responsive to all of our stakeholders," said Lawrence Superintendent Ann Pedersen.

Her district has sent budget brochures to every home in the school system and posted the date and details on the web, she said. Lawrence voters will consider a budget of more than $102.4 million, unchanged from last year, elect two board members and decide a handful of propositions that include items such as classroom renovations.

Pedersen said the district has had to change the voting date before, in 2009, due to a conflict with the holiday.

Shavuot, known as the Feast of Weeks, begins May 16 and ends the evening of May 18. No work is permitted for observers of the holiday. The Feast of Weeks is celebrated in May or June, depending on the year.

Originally, it was a spring harvest celebration, but later a commemoration of the revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

Great Neck will elect two board members and consider a more than $252 million budget with a tax levy increase of 1.98%, which is below the district's state cap of 2.82%.

In West Hempstead, school officials have said they sought the date change to enable more voters to come to the polls. Residents there will elect two board members and consider a roughly $68 million budget with a tax levy increase of 2.11%, equal to the state tax cap.

In Hewlett-Woodmere, voters will consider a more than $129 million budget that includes a tax levy increase of 1.95%, which is under the state cap of 2.63%. They also will elect five trustees to the board.

A tax levy is the total amount of revenues raised through local property taxation in each district. Under state law, the amount of money a district can raise is restricted by caps.

The system works like this: First, the state sets a uniform baseline cap each year of 2% or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. This year’s baseline is 1.23%. Next, a cap is set for each individual district in which the baseline is adjusted, based on local factors. For example, if district voters approve a bond issue, revenues from the bonds are exempt from the cap, allowing the district to raise more money. A district seeking to override its individual cap must gain approval of at least 60% of voters.

With John Hildebrand

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