Manhasset school budget would break tax cap, East Quogue won't

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The Manhasset school district will ask voters June 18 to approve a tax levy increase that exceeds the state's cap while tiny East Quogue will come under the limit, officials said.

The six Long Island school districts that saw their budgets defeated last month -- which also include Baldwin, North Babylon, Sachem and South Country -- had until Monday to decide what to ask of voters when they cast their ballots later this month.

If their budgets are turned down for a second time, the tax levy increase will go to zero, sparking drastic cuts, administrators said.

Manhasset is asking for a 1.97 percent tax levy increase, exceeding the state's cap of 0.15 percent. It will need 60 percent of the vote to pass.

The district's budget will be $86,176,419, down from the $89,296,198 it proposed May 21. Manhasset originally asked for a 5.98 percent increase.

Only 53.3 percent of voters approved it.

"The 60 percent supermajority does present a challenge," Superintendent Charles Cardillo said. "I'm hopeful people will look at this as an earnest attempt to run quality programs while being fiscally prudent."

The district reached its new budget by offering a retirement incentive and trimming administrators, teachers, clerical workers and custodians, among other cuts.

East Quogue will ask for a 2.45 percent tax levy increase, just below the state's 2.46 percent cap. It will need only a simple majority vote to pass. Tax caps vary by district.

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More than 59 percent of voters approved the district's earlier request for a 5.2 percent tax levy increase.

School board member Joseph Tsaveras said the 60 percent requirement is unfair. The earlier budget was defeated by just seven votes, he said.

"A majority of the people did speak and their voice was not heard," Tsaveras said. "It should be a simple majority like everything else. The majority ruled and lost, which, in turn, will only hurt our elementary school."

Its newly proposed budget will be $22,410,732, a dip from its earlier request of $22,997,732. East Quogue will likely cut two special education teachers as well as a yet-to-be-determined number of teacher assistants and teacher aides. It also will trim its part-time speech and psychological services, and will cut one custodial position, officials said.

"The real fear that we have is that if this second vote is not successful -- and we are forced to go to the zero percent property tax cap -- further cuts would be devastating," said Superintendent Les Black. "No one seems to take into account that some very high quality, terrific young staff are going to lose their jobs."

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North Babylon is once again calling for a 3.4 percent tax levy increase, above the cap of 2.65. Baldwin and Sachem are seeking a 3.14 percent rise -- equal to their tax levy caps -- and South Country is seeking a 0.95 percent increase, just below the state's 0.98 percent cap, officials said.

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