All School Budgets Were Approved

Controversies set aside as voters support spending plans with large margins
Voters checked in at the East Hampton School District polling place at East Hampton High School on Tuesday. Morgan McGivern

    After months of haggling over budgets and whether to pierce the state-imposed 2-percent cap on tax levy increases, the voters have spoken, approving school budgets from Bridgehampton to Montauk by wide margins and electing new school board members.
    Shortly after the polls closed in East Hampton on Tuesday night, Kerri Clark, the district clerk, announced that voters had approved its $64.2 million budget by a margin of 561 to 122 votes.
    Voters in Springs passed a $25.4 million budget by 383 to 117 votes — or nearly 77 percent. Bridgehampton saw its $11.2 million budget approved by 137 to 50, while in Amagansett, a $10.2 million budget was okayed 127 to 25. And in Montauk the margin for an $18.7 million budget was 218 to 50.
    Out of six candidates competing for three openings on the East Hampton School Board, Wendy Geehreng, J.P. Foster, and Richard Wilson walked away triumphant. Alison Anderson, the lone incumbent, had sought a second three-year term, but she placed second to last. George Aman and Lauren Dempsey, incumbents, had decided not to run again.
    Ms. Geehreng received 450 votes, Mr. Foster 430, and Mr. Wilson 302. The unsuccessful candidates were Nicholas Boland, with 277 votes, Ms. Anderson, with 246, and Mary Ella Moeller with only 183.
    The $64.2 million East Hampton budget includes a 5.53-percent tax rate increase. Despite the board cutting nearly $1 million since first reviewing the budget earlier this year, it represents a 2.21-percent increase over last year. The estimated increase of 5.01 percent in the tax levy meets the state-mandated 2-percent cap once exemptions are taken into account.
    In Springs, Eric Casale, the principal, called to report Tuesday evening’s results, noting that the 383-to-117 positive vote, represented nearly 77 percent.
    The two seats on the Springs School Board went to Jeff Miller, who received 437 votes, and Adam Wilson, with 392. The third candidate, Martin Drew, received 78 votes. Neither Kathee Burke-Gonzalez nor Teresa Schurr, current board members, sought re-election.
    Next year’s $25.4 million budget in Springs includes a tax levy increase of 1.3 percent and a projected tax rate increase of 3.37 percent. By comparison, last year’s $24.6 million budget included a 2.97 percent increase in the tax levy and a 3.19-percent increase in the tax rate.
    Bridgehampton voters not only approved its $11.2 million budget, but went for two propositions, including a $160,000 increase in spending for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center and an increase in transportation services, which is expected to total $60,525.
    According to Jeannine Stallings, the district clerk, the transportation increase is the result of expanded eligibility criteria for students in grades 9 to 12 — from the current distance of 15 miles to 25 miles. Voters also elected three members to the Bridgehampton School board. The incumbents, Lawrence LaPointe and Gabriella Braia, received 143 and 113 votes, while Jennifer Vinski, a newcomer, received 147 votes. Bridgehampton also had three write-in candidates: Ms. Stallings received 11 votes and Bruce Bombkowski and Philip Cammann each received one vote.
    Cheryl Bloecker, the Amagansett district clerk, reported the 127-to-25 vote approving the budget. Two school board members, John Hossenlopp and Victoria Smudzinski, were re-elected, having run unopposed. Mr. Hossenlopp received 102 votes; Ms. Smudzinski 97.
    Additionally, Amagansett voters approved a proposal to use $225,000 in capital reserve funds to upgrade security.
    As in other districts the $18.7 million budget in Montauk was approved with a comfortable, 218 to 50, margin, according to Jack Perna, the superintendent. The one vacancy on the Montauk School Board went to Lee White, who beat out Honora Herlihy by 160 to 101 votes. The term is five years. After 29 years of service, Therese Watson did not seek re-election.
    Meanwhile, in Sagaponack, 42 voters approved its $1.7 million budget. Two voted no, while one voter abstained. Cathy Hatgistavrou, an incumbent, ran unopposed for an additional three-year term, which begins July 1. She received 44 votes with 1 abstention.
    Wainscott voters approved an approximately $3.5 million budget by 41 to 1, according to Mary McCaffrey, the district clerk. William A. Babinksi Jr., who received 39 votes, was elected to serve on its three-seat board of trustees. Two write-in candidates — Catherine Dickinson and Bill Costello — each received one vote.
    The budgets in other South Fork districts were also approved handily. In Sag Harbor, where the school board has seen considerable dissention this year, a $35,508,622 budget was approved 825 to 377. And, in Southampton, the yes votes for a $61,877,948 budget numbered 402 to 100 opposed.