May 19, 2012
By Scott P. Moore
Standard Staff Reporter
Both local public school districts passed their proposed budgets for the 2012-2013 school year during a public vote on Tuesday and a total of five Board of Education members were elected to positions in the districts.
The Hewlett-Woodmere School District, also referred to as District 14, passed a budget totalling $105,785,736, maintaining the district’s promise earlier this year to keep to one of its lowest tax levies in many years. The budget was passed by a 1388-877 margin. The levy increase is 1.91 percent for the next year, although the budget will climb about 2.47 percent from last year’s budget, which totalled over $103 million.
In addition, the Hewlett-Woodmere School District elected two new members to the Board of Education – Melissa Gates and Jonathan Altus – as well as reelecting one incumbent member, Stephen B. Witt. The three elected ran together against independent candidate Fred Usherson. Gates garnered the most votes from the district with 1605, followed by Witt with 1501 and Altus at 1325. Usherson received 824 votes.
Incumbent board members Marcy Goldberg and Jill Stern did not seek reelection.
Gates, now a new board member, said she was relieved when the budget was announced to have passed.
“I think the budget was responsible and in the years coming, I know, it’ll be harder and harder with the tax caps to educate our children,” she said. “I believe there has been enough long term planning that we’ll be in good shape. Hopefully we can continue to be thoughtful to the taxpayers and educate our students the best we can.”
As far as being elected to the board, she added that was “certainly grateful to the community for putting their confidence in me.”
“I’m very happy the budget passed,” said Altus. “I’m happy Melissa Gates and Stephen Witt were elected and reelected to the board. I hope that Fred Usherson continues to be an advocate for children in the district. I’m looking to being a member of the board and serving the district.”
“ I was very happy [about the budget] but I never see it as win for myself,” said Witt. “It’s a win for the students. It’s all about our kids. If we pass a good budget, it means we don’t have to reduce the services other districts do. By being reelected, I can help serve the district again.”
Wit said he also wanted to thank the students who helped with his campaign for reelection, including those who helped with his social networking outreach on Facebook.
The Lawrence School District, known as District 15, passed its proposed budget of $93,155,150, which did not increase from last year’s budget at all. The budget passed by a 587-255 margin. In order to offset less money being used from the district’s fund balance and surplus, the tax levy was increased by the maximum allowed two percent, topping out at $80.5 million of the coming year’s budget. Residents also approved $2.7 million to be appropriated for use at the Peninsula Public Library by a 582-220 vote.
Two incumbent members of the Lawrence Board of Education – Abel Feldhamer and Uri Kaufman – ran unopposed in the district’s election. Feldhamer totaled 524 votes and Kaufman brought in 522. The district also elected a member to the Peninsula Library Board of Trustees, incumbent Sarah Yastrab who was also unopposed, with 532 votes.
“It’s very gratifying and we were pleased to see so many people came out in support of the budget,” said Feldhamer. Although only about half as many voters came out to the Lawrence elections as the Hewlett-Woodmere election, Feldhamer said the board was not surprised by a lower number of voters than usual.
“It was an expected low turnout since there was no opposition,” he said. “Less opposition, less publicity – but for that, the turnout was not bad at all.
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