Most Long Island school budgets were successful after Tuesday’s budget vote, with 115 of the 124 school district getting the green light.
School officials in both Nassau and Suffolk were confident that budgets would pass because of lower tax hikes than usual, mainly due to the new 2-percent property tax cap that was put into effect last year.
Nine school districts failed to win approval, with seven of those districts unable to get the 60 percent supermajority approval needed to override the tax cap. They include Center Moriches, Comsewogue, East Islip, Elmont, Floral Park-Bellerose, Mount Sinai and Three Village.
“We expected that anybody that kept within the cap was likely to pass and that it was going to be iffy for those that were over the cap,” Alan Groveman, Connetquot Central School District superintendent and the President of Suffolk County School Superintendents Association told the Press.
“I think the districts were able to demonstrate to the public that they were doing everything they could within the fiscal realities to keep the taxes as low as possible,” he added, “but still provide the programs that the residents were demanding.”
School officials and state Department of Education data reported that 16 district’s were attempting to override the cap, though published reports put that number at 17.
The districts that failed will be able to put out another vote and if it fails again, the tax rate freezes and remains the same as this year’s tax levy.
Middle Country Central School District was one of the districts that put out a budget that pierced their tax cap, which was 3.03 percent. The proposal passed by a slim margin at 60.8 percent, just enough for a supermajority to approve an increased tax levy.
The district’s superintendent, Roberta Gerold, told the Press that residents showed “real support” for the programs and hard work of its teachers and administrators.
“There was just so much stuff out of control that we were all so nervous about it,” she said. “We were really humble.”
Gerold said the district held more public meetings than usual to educate voters on the first-ever tax cap. By doing that, she said, school officials recognized that there was support building for exceeding the cap.
The other districts that saw their budgets voted down are now in a difficult position of putting out another proposal without losing the support of people who voted “yes.”
They are “between a rock and a hard place in that if they take too much out of the budget in order to bring the tax rate in under the cap they’ll lose the support of the people that voted for the budget in the first case,” Groveman noted. “And if they don’t take enough out they wont gain back the support of the people that voted ‘no.’”
The property tax cap enacted last June requires municipalities to keep property tax increases below 2 percent unless a 60 percent supermajority approves the budget proposal.
The numbers for the nine districts that failed were as follows:
Center Moriches Union Free School District – 1,145 to 719
Comsewogue Union Free School District – 1,514 to 1,063
East Islip Union Free School District – 2,545 to 3,072
Elmont Union Free School District – 1,226 to 937
Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District – 1346 to 1299
Mount Sinai Union Free School District- 1263 to 1147
Oysterponds Union Free School District – 192 to 253
Three Village Central Union Free School District – 3981 to 3085
Tuckahoe Union Free School District – 228 to 275