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School vote: Weighing student benefits, teacher pay

Voters in the South Huntington Union Free School District made their way past groups of high schoolers to get to the polling place at Walt Whitman High’s south gymnasium. Outside, enterprising groups of parents and Boy Scouts set up tables laden with candy, school booster apparel and raffle prizes.

One voter, Anne Napolitano, 46, said she cast her ballot in favor of the $140.3 million budget.

“We need to support the school district,” said Napolitano, who added that she has children in fourth and eighth grade who “will be hurt if it doesn’t pass.”

The proposed budget includes a tax-rate increase of 5.9 percent, as well as numerous cuts, including the loss of 62 jobs, three high school varsity teams and a reduction from nine class periods to eight at the high school.

Adrienne Geller, 55, said she supported the budget, even though the tax increase would be a burden.

"We would have liked it to be lower, but given today’s day and age we believe education is the most important thing,” Geller said.

Natasha Betts, 29, said she also supported the budget, but was saddened by the many cuts.

“Definitely with sports, teachers, after-school activities — they cut a lot,” Betts said.

But Pete Pevalo, 45, said he voted no on the budget proposal.

“The money’s not going to the kids — it’s going to the teachers’ pensions,” Peralo said. “The teachers’ union is out of control.”

He said that the proposed tax rate was simply too high. “All of us in this economy are having to tighten our belts,” he said. “This is my way of telling them to put a stop to it.”

Louis Cepeda, 47, agreed.

“Teachers are overpaid, and the budget keeps passing,” he said, adding that he voted “no” this year.

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