Voters OK ‘Smart Schools’ Funding, Drinking Water Protection & Other Ballot Initiatives

A voter casts his ballot at a polling place in Suffolk County on Nov. 4, 2014.

While residents of Oregon and Washington D.C. voted Tuesday on historic proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, voters in New York and Suffolk County were greeted with ballot measures ranging from redistricting to beefing up technology in classrooms.

Mundane as some of the local propositions were in comparison to those of other states, none went up in smoke.

Voters approved three statewide propositions: establishing a redistricting commission every 10 years beginning in 2020, allowing state legislative bills to be distributed electronically rather than in print, and funding for additional technology in classrooms—$2 billion under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Smart Schools Bond Act. The measures passed despite complaints that some were badly worded and difficult to understand.

Two other propositions in Suffolk were also overwhelmingly approved, including one that provides additional resources to protect drinking water (65-34). A far more controversial proposition that merges the elected offices of county comptroller and treasurer into a Chief Financial Officer position in four years passed 61-38.

County Executive Steve Bellone pushed for the merger to appear on the ballot after New York’s highest court blocked a similar referendum from appearing on ballots last year, ruling that the legislature improperly changed the language of the referendum.

The merger won’t go into effect until 2018 when Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who won re-election last year, is term limited. The county estimates that the move will save $1.29 million by eliminating at least a half-dozen positions.

“The best way to hold the line on taxes is to consolidate where we can in order to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars,” Bellone said in a statement.

Carpenter, who lost to Bellone in the 2011 county executive race, has been critical of the merger and successfully challenged the initial referendum in court.

Bellone also applauded voters for approving a referendum that allows the county to restore $29.4 million to the Drinking Water Protection Program that was taken out to help balance the budget last year.

The county can also go ahead and create a $46 million sewer infrastructure fund with the goal of reducing nitrogen pollution, which scientists say continues to threaten LI’s South Shore.