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School Vote Results Roll In; Over-the-Cap Budgets Approved in East Hampton Town

Tue, 05/21/2024 - 21:09
Springs School administrators, board members, and staff watched anxiously Tuesday night as absentee ballots were opened after the polls closed.
Carissa Katz

By Christine Sampson, Denis Hartnett, and Carissa Katz

Months of strategic planning and detailed debate culminated in Tuesday's budget votes and school board elections on the South Fork, with positive results for the three districts piercing the tax cap, East Hampton, Springs, and Amagansett.

EAST HAMPTON

Voters in East Hampton supported the school district's tax-cap-busting budget of $82.88 million on Tuesday, with 80 percent saying "yes." The district needed at least 60 percent approval for it to pass. The official vote tally was 472 to 116.

"First I’ll say I am absolutely ecstatic that the community came out and supported this budget," said Adam Fine, the district superintendent. "To me it shows that they support the current school program and wish us to continue to do the good work. We are thrilled and so appreciative of their support."

According to school officials, the approval means the district can continue the programs and partnerships that its students and families rely on, such as the Project Most after-school program; the dual-language program at the John M. Marshall Elementary School; sports, clubs, and theater arts district-wide, and robust support for students' mental health needs.

In an uncontested race for two seats on the school board, both Christina DeSanti and Sarah Minardi were re-elected to new three-year terms, receiving 496 and 511 votes, respectively.

The Amagansett budget won approval from 77.5 percent of voters. Christine Sampson

AMAGANSETT

The Amagansett School District's controversial academic year, which started with a national Blue Ribbon award and continued with administrative changes and staff turnover, culminated in a victory for the district on Tuesday when voters approved the over-the-tax-cap budget for 2024-25 by a tally of 148 to 43.

The $13.44 million spending plan needed a minimum of 60-percent voter approval, and it got 77.5 percent.

"We're very pleased with the outcome and thankful to everyone who came out to vote," said Richard Loeschner, the interim superintendent, after the votes were counted by hand due to an issue with the paper ballots. "We had some good communication with the community to let them know why some decisions were made. We're very happy that the community came out."

Even though the budget was approved, the administration still plans to lay off four teachers in an area where school officials say they are currently overstaffed — special education. The tax-levy increase would have been even larger — into "double digits," administrators said — if those four teachers were to have been retained.

In an uncontested school board election, Dawn Rana Brophy, an incumbent candidate, earned 118 votes and Robin Jahoda, a newcomer who is a teacher in a neighboring school district, received 119 votes. Ms. Jahoda will serve a full three-year term, while Ms. Brophy will fill the seat created by Kevin Warren's recent resignation from the board.

Voters in Amagansett also weighed in on three other ballot propositions. A measure to approve up to $205,000 from the capital reserve account to repair the cupola passed by a vote of 155 to 33. A measure to spend $95,438 from the reserves on a school bus passed by a vote of 167 to 25. A plan to extend busing to students living half a mile or more away from the school also passed, 124 to 57. The library budget vote tally was 166 yes to 26 no, meaning it, too, passed.

Adrie Quinn, left, was on hand Tuesday as his father, Dermot Quinn, won a seat on the Springs School Board. Carissa Katz

SPRINGS

In the Springs School District, voters delivered the supermajority needed to pass the over-the-tax-cap $37.8 million budget plan on Tuesday. The final count was 463 to 262, for a voter approval rate of 63.86 percent. Turnout was high for the district, officials said.

"I held my breath on this one," said Debra Winter, the superintendent, who will retire at the end of the school year. "I knew it was a big ask, but I couldn't ask for less. The kids deserved it. A huge thank you to our community for coming out to vote." 

The outcome means Springs avoids having to make difficult budget cuts — good news for the students, families, and teachers and staff.

"I'm just so relieved because this is really setting the school up in a really good positition," said Barbara Dayton, the school board president.

Ms. Dayton lost her re-election bid to a first-time candidate, Dermot Quinn. "I've been really happy to do this for the amount of time I have," she said. "I know the school is in very good hands. Dermot seems like he's going to be a really great addition."

Mr. Quinn received 457 votes to Ms. Dayton's 198 to win a three-year term on the board. "I'm speechless," he said after the results were announced. More important that the school board race, he said, was the budget. "I'm so glad that passed. There's just so much good stuff being done by this little school. 

BRIDGEHAMPTON

The Bridgehampton School District's $22.55 million budget plan passed on Tuesday, with a final count of 98 to 21, or 82 percent voter approval. The budget is tax-cap-compliant, so its 3.34-percent tax levy increase needed only a simple majority to pass.

In the contested school board race, which featured two full three-year terms and one partial term, the winners were Jo Ann Comfort with 98 votes, Angela Chmielewski with 74, and Nicole DeCastri-Zabala with 65. Ms. DeCastri-Zabala and Merritt Thomas, who received 63 votes, were running for the first time. Ms. Comfort was seeking her third term on the board and Ms. Chmielewski was seeking her second.

MONTAUK

Voters in the Montauk School District approved the $24.21 million spending plan on Tuesday, with 91 percent of the 188 people who cast ballots green-lighting a budget that calls for a one-year tax credit due to a prior year's accidental overcollection of tax money.

"This is a testament to the commitment of our faculty, staff, and board of education to the children and community of Montauk," Josh Odom, the district's superintendent and principal, wrote in an email. "The passing of this budget represents the culmination of the district’s diligence in solving issues that will benefit both the taxpayers of Montauk and the school community."

Sarah Greenberg Roberts won a seat on the school board in an uncontested race. 

SAG HARBOR

It was a fairly smooth-sailing budget cycle in the Sag Harbor School District, where voters easily passed a below-the-cap spending plan of $50.23 million. The final count was 452 to 116.

Also on the ballot were two propositions that both passed. A measure allowing the district to spend $508,252 from a reserve account on four new buses received 470 votes in support and 101 votes against. The district also sought permission to spend $2.4 million from a capital reserve account to complete district-wide air conditioning, heating, and ventilation upgrades, which received 501 votes in favor and 67 votes against. Ryan Winter and Jordana Sobey were both re-elected to three-year terms, with 498 votes and 485 votes respectively.

SAGAPONACK

Sagaponack voters approved the district's $2.04 million spending plan for the 2024-25 school year. During the single hour that polls were open Tuesday night, 18 voters cast "yes" votes and none said "no."

 Brian Villante, a previous board member who sought to return to the board, was elected to a new term in an uncontested election, receiving 18 votes.

WAINSCOTT

This time last year, voters in Wainscott rejected a school budget that called for an almost doubling of the tax levy to account for unexpected expenses that put the district into a deficit. School officials said the budget has since stabilized, and voters responded on Tuesday by approving the $4.8 million proposal for next year. The final tally was 108 to 35 votes.

Kelly Anderson, an incumbent board member seeking another term, was re-elected with 124 votes.

 


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