North Fork voters were in a yes mood on Tuesday, approving each of the five local school budgets by comfortable margins.
Incumbent school board members won new terms except in Mattituck-Cutchogue and Oysterponds, where one sitting member in each was turned out. That nevertheless constituted a sweep in Oysterponds, where all three seats at stake on Tuesday were filled by newcomers.
Mattituck-Cutchogue voters overwhelmingly approved a $36.54 million budget, with 920 voting yes and 531 no. The budget is expected to raise the property tax rate 3.43 percent.
In the race for two school board seats, Janique Nine was re-elected with 913 votes and challenger Bill Gatz ousted incumbent Lynne Krauza. Mr. Gatz received 781 votes to 706 for Ms. Krauza.
Ms. Krauza was the chairperson of North Fork United Schools, a group she helped found last year to address issues of consolidation of some school district services, particularly in the area of business matters. She was also involved with the One Island, One Voice letter-writing effort that resulted in thousands of handwritten letters going to Long Island state legislators demanding revisions in the school aid formula. Ms. Krauza on Tuesday night said she did not want to comment on whether or not she will continue to be involved with North Fork United Schools.
Superintendent James McKenna said he appreciated the community’s ongoing support and “coming out in the horrible weather to vote.”
“The board of education and the administration clearly hears the community message to continue to spend very prudently,” he said.
Southold voters endorsed that district’s $25.67 budget in a 653-350 vote.
The anticipated 1.5 percent tax rate increase is the lowest in 13 years, according to Superintendent David Gamberg.
“The taxpayers recognized that Southold is doing everything we can to manage and maintain the integrity of its programs,” Mr. Gamberg commented. He pointed out that the administration and board are working to control costs both in the year ahead and in the long-term.
He said his only disappointment was that the voter turnout had been less than it was last year, though he didn’t have specific numbers available. He said the foul weather may have been a factor, but that he hoped to see more taxpayer involvement with the school district in the future.
School board president Judy Fouchet, who was unchallenged, received 691 votes.
“I’m very pleased that the community continues to support the school in spite of the uncertainties of the economy of the state,” Ms. Fouchet said. She said she hoped that support will continue, with voters paying attention to Albany and the need to change the formula by which schools receive state aid.
Southold voters also approved two additional propositions. One allows for the creation of a capital reserve fund for major projects, such as a new roof or boiler. It passed 643-339 and will be funded over a 10-year period, with the first $850,000 infusion coming from the district’s fund balance. Voter approval will still be needed to allocate any of the funds.
Also, voters agreed to give Southold Free Library $765,052 from school district tax revenues, with the rest of its $813,700 budget to be paid by fines, interest and contributions and money from the library’s fund balance. The vote was 678-314 to approve the library funding proposition.
In the Oysterponds School District, which covers East Marion and Orient, the $5.5 million spending plan was passed 222-109. By allocating money from the district’s fund balance and making a small cut in spending, the board was able to keep taxes from rising in the 2010-11 school year.
The three seats up for a vote on Tuesday of the seven-member board all will be filled by newcomers. Incumbent Carl Demarest, the only current member seeking re-election, finished last in the four-way race, taking 180 votes. The new members will be Deborah Dumont with 233 votes; Thomas Gray with 232; and Dorothy-Dean Thomas, who finished with 227.
“The people voted and now I go into retirement at the end of next month,” Mr. Demarest said.
“I’m shocked,” Mr. Gray said. “I’m excited and I’m glad that the community is welcoming some outside points of view.”
Ms. Thomas said she was “excited and stunned,” while Ms. Dumont declined comment.
“I’m grateful in this economic time that the majority of voters agreed we were fiscally prudent,” Superintendent Stuart Rachlin said.
Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda greeted the lopsided 336-79 vote to pass that district’s $13.83 million budget as a sign that the community understands district needs and will be equally kind next November or December when the board will bring forth a bond issue to pay for critical facilities needs. The building needs a new roof, boilers and work on the auditorium that has been water damaged from serious leaks. The amount of the bond hasn’t yet been determined.
The budget will raise district taxes 4.5 percent, higher than in other North Fork districts, but while many went up seven to 10 percent a year in previous years, Greenport held the line and last year even lowered taxes by almost 2 percent. That is something voters seemed to understand in voting for the budget, Mr. Comanda said.
Incumbents Tina Volinski and Heather Wolf bested Michael Reed to retain their board seats. Ms. Volinski was top vote-getter with 308; Ms. Wolf got 277 votes; and Mr. Reed received 137.
“I could care less,” Mr. Reed said when it was obvious his bid had been rejected by voters. “I just want to shake things up,” he said.
Ms. Volinski declared herself “very pleased and excited to continue as a board member.” Ms. Wolf, who has been board president this year, said she was “flattered and delighted to be continuing for another three years.”
Tiny New Suffolk overwhelmingly approved a $788,704 budget, 73 to 5. The property tax rate, which is now only about a third of that charged in the area’s largest school districts, is expected to rise 4.88 percent
School board member Joseph Polashock, who ran unopposed, received 71 votes. Tracy Palumbo garnered five votes as a write-in candidate.
Julie Lane and Erin Schultz contributed to this story.