Second time's the charm: School budget finally passes


West Hempstead voters needed two trips to the polls, but a new school board budget was adopted Tuesday night, with 1,239 in favor, and 1,065 against.

No other school district rejected its initial budget on Long Island last month, leaving West Hempstead the only board that had to go back and give the budget another try. With the thumbs up from the community, the school board averted needing to fall back to a bare bones contingency budget.

The new budget isn’t much different from the $71.4 million budget voters rejected in May. Yet, by cutting a few hundred thousand dollars from the bottom line, trustees were able to reduce the pending tax levy increase from 2.14 percent to 1.5 percent.

Anxieties had continued to simmer among members of the West Hempstead Board of Education as they met for their final meeting ahead of the district’s budget revote being held on Tuesday, June 21. At the meeting Assistant Superintendent Joel Press had outlined the district’s revised budget at the meetingt. A tax levy increase of 2.14 percent was included in the first failed budget. The revised budget proposal saw the added tax levy decrease to 1.5 percent.

If the budget had failed again, an austerity budget would have been a tough pill to swallow, assistant superintendent Joel Press said. That could include being required to charge outside groups for use of school facilities, for example.

“I would think that most of our organizations like the Chiefs and the Little Leagues, they’re really trying to keep costs minimal for parents,” board president Karen Brohm explained. “So if we have to charge them, then they have to raise the costs to parents, and then prevent children from being able to participate in those events.”

Getting approval required campaigning beyond the board itself. Retired educator Barbara Hafner had organized outreach to get her neighbors to the polls.

“First go round, we sent postcards,” she said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“This time we’re making phone calls, so hopefully we’ll make a difference.”

Outgoing board trustee Patricia Greaves had used her own farewell remarks to impress how important the budget decision was.

“Please vote,” she said. “I’d hate for my tenure to end with this vote not being passed. This is our community. We have to invest in it. We invest in our home. We invest in our family. We have to invest in our school district.

“And I say that with passion.”