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Elmont approves cap-busting school budget

Youngsters, student athletes and parents march with signs

Youngsters, student athletes and parents march with signs in front of Dutch Broadway Elementary School in support of the Elmont district's budget, which is up for a revote. (June 16, 2012) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin/Kevin P Coughlin

Elmont educators and parents broke into applause as the budget results were flashed on a large screen at the front of a conference room where they had gathered Tuesday night.

Voters Tuesday approved the $77.59 million school budget for the 2012-13 academic year, capping weeks of debate in the only Long Island district that sought for a second time to top its tax cap.

The revised spending plan, trimmed by nearly $1 million from the budget offered in May, will bring a 1.49 percent increase over the current budget. It will also raise property taxes 4.9 percent -- higher than the 1.89 percent limit set under the state's new tax-cap law.

A 60 percent supermajority was required to override the cap. More than 62 percent approved the measure, with 2,249 favoring it and 1,352 opposed.

Board president Michael A. Jaime said school officials worked hard to craft a sound budget.

"We listened to what the general public had to say," he said. "We had looked at what we could cut and not impact the 10-month school schedule."

Pauline Johnson, an aide at Dutch Broadway School and a local PTA president, said she pushed for the budget on Facebook, made calls and sent text messages supporting the plan.

"I'm thrilled," she said.

Superintendent Al Harper said the results were a testament to "a community that supported its children."

Pascal Antoine, 22 and a college student, voted for the budget at Dutch Broadway school.

"I was a student here and I admired the school and everything in it," he said.

The vote means the district can avoid cuts in pupil transportation, field trips and equipment purchases, among other changes.

The district's original spending plan, which would have increased spending 2.76 percent and taxes 6.87 percent, was approved by nearly 57 percent of voters on May 15. Residents who criticized the earlier budget said they also opposed the revamped spending plan. Elmont, an elementary district on the Nassau-Queens border, has about 3,700 students enrolled.

There is little commercial property, so taxes fall mostly on local homes. But voters leaving the polls said they'd rather pay more and save what they deemed crucial programs.

Ralph Esposito, 68 and retired from UPS, voted for the budget.

"You can't go against the kids," said Esposito, a commissioner in the Elmont Fire Department. "And it's a few extra dollars. It is not going to kill me."

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