HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The votes are in on Long Island, where school taxes account for more than 60 percent of homeowners’ assessment.
The result? Residents’ taxes are going up.
School budgets passed overwhelmingly in districts across the island with two exceptions: Uniondale’s spending plan failed to win a majority despite the backing of the Parker family, and North Bellmore, where residents split over the issue of student busing which needed a super-majority for a transportation proposition to exceed the district’s state-imposed cap.
Some on Long Island wanted a signal of empathy from their district that school leaders understood the strain imposed by property taxes, and would offer a budget well below the 4.2 percent state cap limit.
Some say it disproportionately affects lower income neighborhoods.
Homeowners could face a fiscal reckoning next year when a new federal tax law takes full effect.
Others were surprised that tiny Greenport on the North Fork, the only school district to attempt a tax cap override, passed with nearly 65 percent approval.
School leaders island-wide blamed voter apathy. In Hempstead, only 800 in a district of 8,000 went to the polls and ousted the two board members who brought in reformer superintendent Dr. Shimone Waronker. They lost running on a platform fighting corruption and nepotism.
“The money is going someplace else,” Gwen Jackson, who defeated the incumbent Hempstead school board member, said. “Hempstead is almost like a family business.”
Now, all five board members are aligned and have hired a PR firm.
“For the first time now, the very first time, the board can unify and they’re very excited about this,” Hempstead Schools spokeswoman Nicole Epstein said.
The question now is whether or not they can turn around a 37 percent graduation rate. School budget re-votes are expected in June.