West Hempstead Superintendent Daniel Rehman speaks at the school board meeting...

West Hempstead Superintendent Daniel Rehman speaks at the school board meeting Wednesday, where the budget plan was finalized. Board president Karen Brohm is at left. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

West Hempstead's school board majority has opted for a revote on the same $74.1 million budget defeated by voters last month, as a debate over taxation continues in that divided district. 

The 1,600-student system is one of only two on Long Island where proposed budgets went down in the initial round of voting May 16, and it's also the only district where it has now happened two years in a row.

At a Wednesday night meeting, majority trustees and their allies described the spending plan as "reasonable" and "responsible." The vote was 6-1 for a second round of balloting. The budget would raise spending 4.2% and taxes 1.9% during the upcoming 2023-24 school year, compared with Long Island averages of 5.8% and 1.9%, respectively.

Advocates added that they had gone over the budget proposal line by line and felt that it balanced the need to be fiscally cautious with the need to maintain programs and services for students. 


  • West Hempstead, which failed to pass its proposed $74.1 million budget last month, has decided to put up an identical plan for a revote June 20. 
  • Local school leaders defend the idea of holding two votes on the same budget, saying their plan is fiscally and educationally responsible. 
  • Representatives of private-school parents in the district contend that school property taxes are too high and need to be reduced. 

"We've gone through the budget, we've seen the budget," the board's president, Karen Brohm, told a reporter. "The budget is strong, the budget is fiscally responsible."

In contrast, the board's lone opposition member, Burt Blass, called for at least a small reduction in spending while questioning the wisdom of balloting twice on an identical budget. Blass, who participated in the meeting via remote link, accompanied his "no" vote with an emphatic thumbs-down gesture that was flashed across a video screen.

"l'm not sure why we think coming out with the same budget would change the outcome," Blass said before voting.

West Hempstead's revote will be held June 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the north gym of the district's secondary-school complex. The tiny Wainscott district in the Island's East End also will hold a revote that day, which is the uniform date set by the state.

West Hempstead school officials noted that the spending-and-tax plan rejected by local residents in the first round of voting was well below restrictions set by the state's tax-cap law. That vote was 1,370 opposed to 1,169 in favor. Local officials also observed that their public school system is the only one of 124 on the Island where a proposed budget did not receive a majority of "yes" votes two years in a row.

At this time last year, local leaders responded to a budget defeat in a different way: They trimmed a spending plan slightly to $71.1 million, while also reducing a tax-levy expansion from 2.14% to 1.59%. The revised package passed with 1,239 "yes" votes and 1,065 "no" votes. 

One factor that sets West Hempstead apart is an unusually high percentage of households sending children to private schools. Figures compiled by the state Department of Education show that 1,693 local students attended grades K-12 in West Hempstead's public system in 2020-21, while 1,354 students living in the district attended private schools. 

In recent years, school board candidates supported by private school parents have increasingly pressed for lower spending and taxes. At a May 24 board meeting, Blass, who was elected to the board in 2022, put the case this way:

"Each of the residents of our community pay over $9,000, about $9,000 earmarked for the school tax. And some of these young families, they have three, four, five children — OK, they've opted to … educate their kid in a private school. At the same time, they feel that it's still appropriate to support the local public school, but they're choking with all their expenses. And basically, what they're looking for is a bit of relief somehow."

In response, supporters of the public system said that general apathy among residents poses a bigger problem for the district than resistance among private-school parents. 

"Everybody has to come out and vote," said one trustee, Joseph Magaraci, who spoke at Wednesday's meeting. "We have 16,000 registered voters and 2,500 who come out to vote. That's not good."

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