There was tension apparent at polling places on the East End yesterday, and likely around the state as well, as voters were given the chance to approve or reject the first school budgets required to come under the newly imposed 2-percent property tax cap.
Amagansett was the only school locally that chose to pierce the cap, due primarily to increased enrollment, which brought the budget in at a 5.21-percent increase over last year’s, or around $323,000. A 60-percent voter “supermajority” was necessary for it to pass. Voters approved the $9.66 million budget by over 70 percent, 252 to 98.
“We are really very appreciative that the community has supported our programs, and that we can continue providing these excellent standards for our children,” Eleanor Tritt, the school superintendent, said yesterday. Also in Amagansett, Mary Lownes, the incumbent, retained her seat against the challenger, Rona Klopman, by a vote of 252-81.
In spite of a last-minute e-mail blast by a local woman imploring residents to vote no, Springs approved the district budget, 434 to 139.
Dawn Flagg said in a letter sent to the school board, the East Hampton Town Board, and a contingent of Springs residents on Tuesday afternoon, that Springs has the most expensive school taxes in the East End. “Vote it down, vote it down, vote it down, down, down,” she wrote.
The $24.63 million budget reflected over $700,000 worth of cuts imposed by the school board to stay under the tax cap, including the elimination of six teaching positions, and showed a tax rate increase of 3.19 percent, due almost entirely to approximately $1 million lost in non-tax revenue. John B. Grant, the vice president of the school board, retained his seat against the challenger, Dennis Donatuti, 381 to 153.
East Hampton, which cut $2.85 million from its proposed budget to come in under the tax cap, presented a $62.84 million budget, a 2.43-percent decrease from this year’s budget of $64.4 million. Voters approved it 454 to 109, and the mood at East Hampton High School was one of excitement and relief as the numbers came in. Richard Burns, the new superintendent, beamed and shook hands with school board members, all of whom stayed after a board meeting to hear the results and adopt the budget resolution.
Liz Pucci ran unopposed to retain her seat on the East Hampton School Board and received 503 votes. With 484 votes, Christina DeSanti was elected to a new three-year term to take the place of Laura Anker Grossman, the school board president, who is stepping down after 20 years.
Montauk saw Kelly White, who ran unopposed, retain her seat, and the $18.5 million budget pass by a vote of 214-68.
In Wainscott, the budget of $3.5 million passed 40-2. David Eagan retained his seat, unopposed, on the board with 27 votes, and Kelly Anderson, a new board member, was elected with 32 votes to fill the seat vacated by Iris Osborn.
Sagaponack embraced its $1.68 million budget, 25-1, and ratified its existing tuition contracts with the East Hampton and Sag Harbor districts, 26-0. Joseph Louchheim was reelected to a three-year term with 23 votes and three abstentions.
In Sag Harbor, the proposed budget of $34.1 million, which represented a 2.88-percent increase over last year’s, passed 892-420. Walter Wilcoxen and Gregg Schiavoni were reelected to the board by 795 and 1,039 votes respectively, while Tom Gleeson, the challenger, received 576 votes, not enough for election.
Bridgehampton saw all three incumbents — Lillian Tyree Johnson, Ronald White, and Douglas DeGroot — retain their seats against Gabriella Bria, the challenger. The budget of $10.7 million was approved, 109-54.
On the South Fork, only Tuckahoe, which proposed an over-9.5-percent increase in the tax rate, did not pass muster. The $17.8 million school budget, which did not pierce the cap, was voted down 275-228. The budget will go before voters again in June, and if rejected a second time, the district will be forced to adopt a contingency budget instead.