At Lindenhurst Middle School, the voter turnout was steady throughout the day Tuesday and 500 people had voted by 4 p.m, said chief inspector Michele Claud. “It’s definitely a big turnout,” Claud said.
Voters were torn between voting for a hefty 6.89 percent tax increase or voting down the budget and facing significant cuts in programs.
“I just thought about the kids and the things they would be taking away from them,” said Pam Doyle, 61, explaining her vote for the budget.
“I don’t want austerity for the kids,” said Alice Weckerle, 87. “My kids were on austerity and it was not fun. So they’ll get my vote for the budget every time.”
Weckerle’s husband, Kenneth, 87, said he would have preferred to not vote for it. “But if you don’t vote for it, then they come back and many times they’ll add on to it and stick it down your throat,” he said.
Clara Zultowski, 61, said that as a mother of a teacher, she was upset by plans to cut 15.4 teaching positions. Still, she voted for the budget. “It’s a trade-off,” she said. “If you don’t pass the school budget, your property devaluates. We want people to stay here and not leave.”
Krista Merget, 54, said she voted “yes” because she’s worried about cuts to academic programs that may result if the is defeated. “I’m concerned my daughter is going to come out of school and it’s not going to be an even playing field,” she said of her 5-year-old. “I want us to be on par with the Japanese and other countries.”
As for the tax increase, Merget shrugged. “This is where we live,” she said. “We pay very high taxes to live here. . . if the taxes get to be too much, then I’ll leave.”
But Kathy Yodice, 45, said the school board could have done more to bring down the increase. “I don’t think the board gave us any other options,” said Yodice, who voted “no”. “I think they were trying to force us into voting ‘yes’.”
“It’s just too high,” Yodice said of the tax increase. “People can’t afford to live here anymore.”
“I understand, you want to keep the ‘great school’ concept but it’s a give and take,” Yodice said. “We have done well with less.”
Yodice, a district graduate, said there were years when programs and activities were shelved due to contingency budgets, but those things were brought back when the economy improved. “I know what it’s like to suck it up for a little while,” Yodice said. “And we all turned out OK.”
Charlie Bittner, 58, said he also voted “no.”
“I think it’s gone way over the top,” Bitner said of the tax increase. “There has to be some kind of balance.”
“Who’s had a pay increase in the last few years?” he asked. “We’ve all made do with less. [The school district] needs to make do with less.”
"This is not a wealthy community,” he said. “We’re all tightening our belts. We’re all working hard and they need to work harder at it.”