For the second straight year, voters registered their displeasure with the West Hempstead School District’s budget, defeating the proposed plan by 8 percentage points, with nearly 54 percent disapproving Tuesday night.
District officials must now decide whether to put the same budget to the voters in a revote, make adjustments for another vote, or go on an austerity budget.
The 2023-24 spending plan had called for a tax levy increase of just under 2 percent.
“This is democracy in action,” Superintendent Dan Rehman said immediately after the results were announced. “The community has spoken. We have work to do. We will always be open to the community, and we’re going to have meetings to discuss this.”
Joseph Magaraci fended off challenger Barry Leon by just eight votes, 1,271 to 1,263. David Lazar also had a narrow victory, defeating Tom Sargent by 88 votes for the seat vacated by outgoing trustee Vincent Trocchia.
An emotional Magaraci made a plea immediately after the results were announced for the community to come together for the children.
“This school, this town, these children mean everything to me,” the incumbent said, tears streaming down his cheeks between hugs from supporters. “This community is my soul. This has to change. We have to come together as a community. The divide has to stop.”
In Malverne, more than 75 percent of voters approved the 2023-24 budget, and will pick up a 1.85 percent tax levy increase with it.
Josephine Bottitta will return to the education board after running unopposed.
As custodial staff packed up tables and chairs in the West Hempstead Secondary School gym, and election workers counted ballots by hand, the crowd of a few dozen school officials and families of trustee candidates waited anxiously. Some took to sitting on the floor. Others gave updates of the Mets baseball game.
As a half-dozen election workers sat in folding chairs counting ballots, some school officials anxiously said they hoped it would be over soon.
Unfortunately, when the counting was completed, West Hempstead’s budget had been defeated — again.
“If they fix (the budget), it may very well pass on the second attempt,” Leon said. “I don’t like the idea of going on austerity. It’s doable to make the budget better.”
Malverne voters approved the 2023-24 budget that allows district officials to expand language offerings in grades 3 through 12 and add a literacy coach in the elementary schools. Malverne officials said the approved budget would also allow for expanded academic offerings in the high school.
West Hempstead had sought to expand college credit courses and research programs. Rehman said the district would hold community meetings to seek input on how to improve the budget in anticipation of putting a revised budget up to the community.