Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 28 May 2010 08:50
Whoever has said, “Oh, my one vote doesn’t count, ” was proven very wrong when the Herricks School Budget was defeated on May 18 by just one vote.
As the numbers were tabulated from one voting machine to the next it was fairly obvious that the number of positive votes were just not there. Therefore, everyone relied on the absentee ballots to put them on the plus side, but after all was said and done, it was just one absentee vote of no that defeated the budget.
Immediately after the votes were tabulated, again and again, the board held a school board meeting in the boardroom at the Herricks Community Center.
However, the school board president, Richard Buckley, did not allow any members of the press to be present as the board discussed their options regarding the budget and whether or not to put it up for a revote.
The Herricks School Board then held a scheduled meeting on the Thursday, May 20, after the vote, and announced that they would hold, according to state mandate as to the date, a revote on June 15.
In the meantime on May 26 (too late for this issue) the board will hold another budget hearing in the cafeteria of the Herricks Community Center to receive input from the public and then on June 3 at a regular school board meeting at Center Street School, the board will announce the budget they intend to present for revote on June 15.
The June 15 vote will be held, as the last vote, in the Herricks Community Center gym from 7 a.m.. until 10 p.m.
Prior to the discussing the vote Herricks Superintendent, Dr. John Bierwirth explained the details of a car accident involving four Herricks high school students.
Bierwirth said,”For those of you who do not know, the accident occurred when a car jumped the curb and hit the students, all girls. They were not crossing the street, they were not on their cell phones and not paying attention, they were standing right where they should be on the sidewalk and a car jumped the curb and hit them. The driver drove off, but fortunately there was an extraordinarily good Samaritan who chased after him, somehow got him to stop, got his keys out of his car and held him until the police came. Pretty heroic and maybe a little bit nuts and then he found out, after the incident was over, that one of the girls was related to him in some way.”
Prior to the discussion regarding the vote, Herricks school trustee Paul Ehrbar, who was re-elected, was sworn into office by Herricks Assistant Superintendent for Business, Helen Costigan. Ehrbar received 2166 votes and Dr. Sanjay K. Jain received 1734.
Ehrbar said, “I would like to thank all those who came out and voted for me and for the budget, either way and Dr. Sanjay Jain said, simply, “Ditto.”
School board president Richard Buckley then read the following:
“The board was approached by Herricks Teacher’s Association for a proposal incentive to reduce the 2010-2011 budget. The board discussed this proposal in executive session tonight and has directed the attorney to begin discussion with the HTA. The issue of a retirement incentive was also discussed formally by the Administrative Association and we will go from there. Further, the state is also in the process of authorizing the state retirement incentive. At this point we will now take questions.”
At the request of Herricks School Board Trustee Peter Grisafi, Superintendent Bierwirth then explained what a teacher’s retirement incentive would mean to the budget.
Bierwirth said, “It could mean a variety of things. It could mean that somebody would retire at the top of the scale and we replace them with a much less expensive person. There is also, I suppose, that we could collapse one of those positions. In both cases you don’t have the issue of unemployment.
“How much it would cost in terms of the state, I know they have been talking about a number of possibilities. I was trying to find out from New York State Assemblywoman’s Schimel’s office what the likelihood of that passing and, if so, when. It would be an optional program for districts and it would involve, and as I understand it, enhancing but the school districts would be required to the amount that would be necessary to cover that.
“The first proposal you mentioned would have to be negotiated and see what we end up agreeing to. I never give timelines on negotiations. We would start immediately and conclude when both sides are satisfied.”
The floor was then opened to the public for questions regarding the budget.
The first question was asked by Bill Tountas and he wanted to know if anyone voted by affidavit until a voter’s eligibility was confirmed. He was assured that was not the case and in fact Dr. Bierwirth added, “At the suggestion of our attorney, we also asked that all the voting machines be reviewed by the board of elections to make sure they worked properly.”
A question was asked regarding the bus routes and Bierwirth said if the district gets any relief from Albany in that regard, it will be implemented immediately. He added, “I won’t spend any money we don’t need to. I was reminded of that this morning when I was at a school and the bus came in with many empty seats. Now, the state imagines everybody sitting in those seats who could be eligible and they never show up. They are all in those long, long car lines.”
One of the student representatives then announced that they have circulated a petition to the Herricks School board asking the board to please submit the same budget for a revote and he said that so far they have received 680 signatures on the petition.
A resident also wanted to know if was possible to present the same budget again or to at least submit a budget that will not cut any of the great programs in the Herricks school program including sports, music and Mock Trails, etc. It was determined that the same budget could be proposed and that option was also on the table.
One resident asked if the same budget is proposed and it is not voted on again what happens. Board president Rich Buckley said, “That means we go on austerity and it means we must cut $3.5 million in the budget.”
Many of the residents wanted the same budget to be put up for revote and there were some who wanted to see cuts.
The final budget, to be submitted for a revote, will be decided on by the board and that decision will be announced at the June 3 school board meeting at the Center Street School.