School Board Election, Budget Vote Results Pour In From Around Town

Thousands of voters across the Town of Huntington hit the polls Tuesday to cast their say in the various school board elections and budget votes around town.

Below is Long Islander News’ coverage of results in each of the eight school districts around town.

Elwood Voters Defeat Tax Cap-Piercing School Budget

By Andrew Wroblewski

 Elwood voters Tuesday turned down a tax cap-piercing $59.89 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year.

The budget required supermajority approval -- 60 percent or more -- since it pierced the district’s state-mandated 0.65-percent. However, voters only favored the budget 1,132-805, a 58.4-percent margin.

Andrew Kaplan, Elwood school board president, released a statement on the failed budget on Wednesday. He cited a financial analysis of the district conducted by state comptroller’s office, which found Elwood to be “a district susceptible to financial stress.”

“The Board of Education, administration and community have worked diligently to propose a budget that would begin the pathway to end deficit spending and begin to restore its reserve funds,” Kaplan stated. “Until our state legislators create an aid formula that rewards districts such as Elwood for complying with the Governor’s wish to act efficiently and without bloated reserves, Elwood will continue to feel the pressure of fiscal challenges.”

The board will host a 7:30 p.m. meeting Monday at Elwood Middle School to discuss the budget re-vote, which is scheduled for 2-10 p.m. June 21, also at the middle school.

District officials can choose to again put the same, unchanged, budget before voters. They can also put an altered budget before voters, potentially reducing the budget’s tax levy increase. However, if it fails, the district would then be required to adopt a contingency budget, which must have a tax levy equal to that of the 2015-2016 budget.

Elwood voters also elected Deborah Weiss to the school board’s available three-year seat with 972 votes. Her challenger, Heather Ross, was defeated with 903 votes. Incumbent Andrew Kaplan did not seek reelection.

 Voters OK Cap-Piercing Budget, Full-Day K Plan

By Janee Law

A full-day kindergarten program has been approved for the Harborfields School District, which is currently the only district on Long Island without such a program.

Voters approved the program Tuesday as part of the district’s tax cap-piercing $82.85 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year. Officials said the tax levy cap of 0.37 percent was pierced in order to make room for full-day kindergarten, resulting in a 1.52-percent tax levy increase, and requiring voters to approve it by a supermajority margin of 60-percent or more.

The budget passed by a 67-percent margin, 2,099 in favor and 1,017 opposed.

Jennifer Rogdakis, an advocate for full-day kindergarten and founder of Facebook group “Fair Start: Harborfields Residents for Full-Day Kindergarten,” said Wednesday that members of the group “are so excited that the community came out in support. It just showed us how important people felt this budget was.” 

She added, “We have great teachers and I think everyone is ready for the challenge of taking on the change. I’m so excited to see what they’re going to do with the extra time and I know that they will come up with great developmentally appropriate lessons for our kids.”

District officials have estimated that the full-day kindergarten program will cost $1.74 million.

Voters also cast their say in the Harborfields school board election, re-electing incumbent Hansen Lee and electing newcomer Colleen Wolcott to the two open seats on the board. Lee earned 1,569 votes and Wolcott earned 1,301 votes.

In an interview Wednesday, Lee thanked voters for allowing him the opportunity to continue working on projects around the district, such as improving technology in classrooms.

He said he is also “excited about the passing of the budget.”

“It’s a great day for Harborfields, and for our entire community,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to move forward.”

Challengers Christopher Kelly (1,001 votes), Marge Acosta (992 votes) and Joseph Savaglio (571 votes) each fell short in their bids for election.

6-Year Incumbent Defeated In Northport-East Northport

By Janee Law

Six-year incumbent Julia Binger was defeated Tuesday in her quest for reelection to the Northport-East Northport school board, outlasted by incumbents Lori McCue and Andrew Rapiejko, and newcomer Allison Noonan.

Voters were tasked with filling a trio of available three-year seats. Noonan (2,039 votes) was the top vote getter. Incumbents Andrew Rapiejko (1,984 votes) and Lori McCue (1,560 votes) were reelected to their posts.

Julia Binger (1,543 votes), an incumbent of six years, and candidate Shawne Albero (1,410 votes) were both defeated.

The size of the school board will also be reduced next year after voters approved, 1,881-1,294, a proposition to move from nine members to seven. The change is expected to be implemented during next year’s election, according to Beth Nystrom, district clerk.

She said, instead three seats opening up on the school board during next year’s election, there will instead only be one. Incumbent board members whose terms are set to expire next year are Donna McNaughton, Regina Pisacani and Jennifer Thompson, all of whom could seek reelection.

Residents also approved a $161.38 spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year by a margin of 2,568-687. The budget marks a 1.12 percent budget-to-budget increase from the 2015-2016 spending plan, and sports a 0.55 percent levy increase.

Also getting the 2,848-390 go-ahead is a capital reserve expenditure to allocate $2.095 million from reserves toward capital improvements. Plans include heating upgrades at both Ocean Avenue Elementary School and Fifth Avenue Elementary School; locker room renovations at Northport Middle School; and replacement of the middle school’s gym ceiling.

Commack Elects Anti-Common Core Advocate

By Andrew Wroblewski

The lone seat up for grabs on the Commack school board was secured Tuesday by Pam Verity, a mother of three, and anti-Common Core Advocate.

Verity, who earned 1,167 votes, defeated challenger Susan Hermer, who earned 916 votes. Incumbent Steven Hartman, who ran unopposed for his seat, was reelected with 1,703 votes.

Verity, founder of advocacy group Uniting Commack for the Love of Learning, said she hopes her new role will help her to “keep parents informed in the fight against Common Core and high-stakes testing.”

“Parents like me have won seats across Long Island, and I think we can really get things done,” Verity, a 12-year resident and mother of three, said. “The pendulum has swung to so far to the right, but there’s a silver lining here. More people are now aware, and I think the pendulum will now swing the other way for the children.”

Voters also approved Commack’s $187 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year. The budget marks a 1.3-percent, or $2.4 million, increase from the previous year’s budget, and sports a 0.38-percent tax levy increase.

More Results From Tuesday’s Voting

School budgets were approved in the Cold Spring Harbor, Half Hollow Hills, Huntington and South Huntington school districts, and no incumbent trustee seeking reelection in any of the four districts were defeated, but some new faces were voted in.

First, in Cold Spring Harbor, voters approved, 527-132, a $64.98 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year. Residents also approved a plan to use $2 million from reserves toward building improvements.

Incumbent trustee Amelia Brogan secured 469 votes and was reelected to the school board along with newcomer Lizabeth Squicciarini who secured 455 votes. Challenger George Schwerti (313 votes) was defeated. Incumbent Robert Hughes did not seek reelection to the board.

Half Hollow Hills voters approved, 1,231-368, the district’s $241 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year.

Incumbent trustees David Kaston (1,057 votes) and Eric Geringswald (1,028 votes) were reelected to three-year terms. Challenger Laraine Rudy (616 votes) was defeated.

In Huntington, voters approved, 1,245-304, a $123 million spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year. A proposition to use $2.43 million from district reserves toward various renovation and repair projects was also approved, 1,312-227. Incumbents Bari Fehrs (1,176 votes) and Bill Dwyer (1,147 votes) were both elected to a three-year seat on the board. Challenger Carmen Kasper (483 votes) was defeated.

And in South Huntington, a $159 million budget for the 2016-2017 school year was approved, 1,058-245.

Incumbents Nicholas R. Ciappetta (1,101 votes) and Laura Carey (1,098 votes) were both unopposed and were successful in their bids for reelection.