East Hampton Voters Okay Budget That Pierces Cap

    Across the South Fork, from Sag Harbor to Montauk, the voters have spoken, with school budgets sailing to victory in all but one district and new faces elected to the school board in some.

    Four of the 124 districts across Long Island proposed overriding the so-called 2-percent tax cap, but only East Hampton managed to get the required support from 60 percent of voters.

    During the East Hampton School Board meeting on Tuesday night, board members and school administrators were on tenterhooks awaiting the final verdict.

    Thirty minutes after the polls had closed, Rich Burns, the superintendent, walked back into the district office with a triumphant thumbs up — 73 percent of voters had approved the $65 million spending proposal, voting 492 to 184. The district proposed a 1.3-percent increase in spending for the 2014-15 school year and a 2.43-percent increase in the tax levy, .97 percent over this year’s cap of 1.46 percent.

    Patricia Hope and Jackie Lowey, the two uncontested school board incumbents, received 531 and 535 votes, respectively.

    According to Mr. Burns, annual turnout generally ranges between 600 to 800 voters. In the past decade, he could only recall one election where upwards of 1,000 residents turned out.

    Going into Tuesday’s vote, Mr. Burns said he had a quiet confidence. Still, the requisite 60-percent margin worried him. “I’m thrilled that the voters of the district are supportive of our endeavors in education,” he said Tuesday night. “I promise we will move forward with this vote of confidence and make it the best school year possible.”

    “I didn’t realize how tense the last couple of weeks had been. I slept like a stone,” Ms. Hope said early Tuesday. “A burden has been lifted. We’re riding higher in the water today.”

    Liz Pucci, a board member, also expressed relief. “I’m thrilled and excited,” she said. “I’m very proud of our community for coming out and supporting this budget.”

    In Springs and Sag Harbor, both budgets passed by wide margins.

    The $26.6 million 2014-15 school budget in Springs passed by a vote of 285 to 171. It represents a 4.9-percent increase over the current year’s budget and a taxy levy increase of 3.18 percent (which is under the state-imposed tax cap after exemptions are taken into account).

    A separate proposition to create a capital reserve fund for renovations and improvements like classroom additions also passed, with 284 in favor and 165 opposed. A maximum of $2 million can be placed in the fund for the next five years, for a total of $10 million. There had been much opposition to it at a public hearing last week.

    Elizabeth Mendelman, the board president, and Timothy Frazier, a board member who is the principal of the Southampton Intermediate School, both running unopposed, each won second three-year terms with 371 and 383 votes, respectively.

    In Sag Harbor, voters approved a $36.8 million budget proposal for the coming school year by a vote of 578 to 222. It includes a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent (which is under the cap after exemptions) and a 3.83-percent increase in spending.

    Voters also re-elected two incumbents, Theresa Samot, the current school board president, and Sandi Kruel. Diana Kolhoff will join the board in July to replace Mary Anne Miller, who decided not to run again.

    Ms. Samot received 587 votes, Ms. Kruel took in 526 votes, and Ms. Kolhoff got 503. Thomas C. Ré, another contender, received 346. There were also five write-in votes: three nods for John Battle, two for Stephen Clark, and one for Ms. Miller.

    In Wainscott, 10 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday night, Mary McCaffrey, the district’s clerk, called to confirm the results.

    Thirty-nine Wainscott residents voted in favor of the $3.1 million 2014-15 school budget. No one voted it down. This year’s budget is a decrease of more than $345,000, with the tax rate expected to decrease by 11 percent. 

    David E. Eagan, the current president of the Wainscott School Board, was re-elected with 33 votes. There were two write-ins for Jeff Yusko and four blank ballots.

    In Sagaponack, the $1.75 million school budget passed with 23 votes. No one voted against it. Spending is projected to rise 1.05 percent. The $1.68 million tax levy represents an increase of just over 3 percent.

    Brian Villante was elected for a three-year term on the board with 23 votes. He ran unopposed to replace Fred Wilford, a 36-year veteran, who chose not to run again.

    In Amagansett, the proposed 2014-15 $10.47 million spending plan, which includes a tax levy increase of 1 percent, received 107 votes in favor and 30 opposed.

    Patrick Bistrian, Phelan Wolf, and Patrick Bistrian III ran unopposed for three vacancies on the school board. Two of the openings are three-year terms, with the third largest vote getter finishing out the remaining two-year term of John Hossenlopp, who resigned in December.

    Patrick R. Bistrian received 118 votes, with Mr. Wolf and Patrick Bistrian III tied with 112 votes. Because of the tie, Cheryl Bloecker, the district clerk, explained that the school’s attorney is working to determine who should get the shorter term.

    “I’m very grateful and appreciative of the support of the community,” said Eleanor Tritt, the district’s superintendent. “We appreciate all the efforts to support all the people in the community that provide programs and resources for our children.”

    Finally, Montauk also saw a swift and decisive passage of its $18.6 million school budget, with a tax levy increase of .43 percent. It passed by 188 to 25 votes.

    Jason Biondo got 132 votes for school board and will fill the seat vacated by Lisa Ward. His opponent, Cynthia Ibrahim, received 78 votes. An additional proposition to spend $400,000 from the district’s capital fund to replace two modular classrooms was approved 189 to 24.

    “I was very pleased,” said Mr. Biondo. “It was something that I really wanted and am looking forward to the years to come. I plan to listen and learn, and then see where that goes.”


    With Reporting by Janis Hewitt, Taylor K. Vecsey, and Christopher Walsh