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Elmont School District Averts Budget Crisis

Budget vote garners 60 percent passage second time around at polls

Elmont School District parents, teachers and administrators can rest easy now that the 2012-13 school district budget got the go-ahead the second time around at the polls. The spending plan grabbed the 60 percent voter approval it needed to live to fight another day.

Voters approved the $77.59 million for the elementary school-only district on Tuesday, June 19, ending weeks of tug and pull in the only Long Island district that sought for a second time to override the tax cap. More than 62 percent approved the measure, with 2,249 favoring it and 1,352 opposed, according to district official.

The trimmed spending plan, cut by nearly $1 million from the budget offered in May, will showcase a 1.49 percent increase over the current budget. It will also raise property taxes 4.9 percent.

The district’s original operating plan, which would have increased spending 2.76 percent and taxes 6.87 percent, was approved by nearly 57 percent of voters on May 15, just shy of the needed voter approval. Residents who criticized the earlier budget said they also opposed the revamped spending plan.

District Superintendent Al Harper was unavailable for comment. He was attending a graduation at press time.

There is little commercial property, so taxes fall mostly on local homes. But voters leaving the polls said they’d rather pay more and save programs for current and incoming students.

“I’m glad that it passed,” Elmont resident Ralph Esposito said. “I voted for the kids. It’s not the money. You can’t hurt the kids. I realize that it’s harder and harder for seniors to live here. When you think about it, it’s worth it in my eyes.”

State retirement contributions have increased 15 percent from the 2011-12 school year to the current budget. The proposed budget also showcases an 11 percent increase in health insurance expenses.

Resident Pat Nicolosi is tired of hearing about unfunded mandates.

“I’m angry for a number of reasons,” he said. “We claim we keep doing this for the children, yet studies I have read say three out of four students who graduate from schools on Long Island, leave the island and never come back. Elmont raised property taxes by almost 5 percent, the high school 2 percent. That’s almost a 7 percent tax increase this year. The majority of the people who voted yes on the budget work for the school district, they’re getting a pay increase.”

Concerning state aid in 2012-13, ESD’s help totaled at $18,606,457, a $5,594 decrease from last year. Mandated increases ($1,742,285) for medical insurance and pension rate increases continue to hold back the district. The budget also requires an additional $3.1 million in funding for special education services.

Elmont’s district enrolls about 3,700 students, and is one of the Island’s most racially and ethnically diverse.

“It’s a sad situation on Long Island,” Nicolosi stated. “Every year we hear the same broken record. Unfunded mandates, health costs…every year they keep raising property taxes. The budget failed the first time and that should be the budget. The only people who should vote on a budget are people who pay property taxes.”