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Voters pass school budgets, elect BOE members

HARLEM VALLEY — Even in these tumultuous times, local voters supported their school districts by mailing in their ballots for this year’s district budget vote and school board election in June. Mail in ballots were deemed the best way to deal with voting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and in early May, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order to postpone the state’s school board elections and budget votes to Tuesday, June 9, and mandate that both be conducted via mail.  Though that date was later extended by the governor, all qualified voters received their ballots, with return postage paid, in the mail to return to their school district offices in time for their votes to be counted.

Administrators from the North East (Webutuck), Pine Plains and Millbrook Central School Districts thanked their communities after the votes returned for passing the budgets for the 2020-21 school year, all of which passed with flying colors.

Totaling $23,909,545, the Webutuck 2020-21 school district budget passed with 673 votes for it and 275 votes against it. For this year’s Board of Education (BOE) election, incumbent BOE candidates Judy Moran and Christopher Lounsbury ran for the three open seats on the board along with write-in candidates Jay Newman and Henry Pollinger. Lounsbury led with 729 votes, followed by Moran with 638 votes and Newman with 631 votes. All three will serve three-year terms, starting Wednesday, July 1, through June 30, 2023.

Addressing the community during the Webutuck BOE meeting on Thursday, June 18, Webutuck Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani said, “Thank you for your continued support of our educational program, thank you for the trust you have in us to continue to move forward as a district and we look forward to this year, which is going to be a very interesting year.”

In the Pine Plains school district, in addition to submitting their ballots via mail, voters had the option of using the budget vote ballot box located inside the center doors of the Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School main entrance. In addition to voting on the 2020-21 budget, voters cast their ballots for a bus purchase proposition, for four 35-passenger or larger school buses (including cameras and other necessary equipment) at a maximum estimated cost of $62,110 each for an aggregate maximum estimated cost of $248,440. They also voted on incumbent BOE candidates James Griffin and Heidi Johnson, who ran for the two open BOE seats.

Totaling $33,525,450, the adopted Pine Plains 2020-21 budget passed with 1,428 votes in favor of it and 643 votes against it. The bus proposition also passed with 1,295 votes of approval and 761 votes against it. Johnson led the BOE election with 1,572 votes, followed by Griffin with 1,571 votes. They will now both serve a three-year term each, starting Wednesday, July 1, through June 30, 2023

“We are very pleased with the continued support from our community,” Pine Plains Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler remarked. “It is reassuring to know that the work that we are doing is appreciated.”

As for the Millbrook school district, voters cast their ballots for the approval of the 2020-21 school district budget as well as the election of two BOE members. Totaling $30,980,759, the budget passed with a total of 957 votes, though there were also 504 votes against it. Newcomer candidate Chris Rosenbergen received 1,122 votes while incumbent candidate and BOE Vice President Howard Shapiro received 954 votes. Both will now serve a three-year term, starting Wednesday, July 1, through June 30, 2023.

“It really comes down to the fact that we really know how people have been impacted by this entire thing, but we had a tremendous number of votes cast… and I can’t thank them enough for that trust and that commitment they’ve made to the Millbrook Central School District,” said Millbrook BOE President Perry Hartswick. “On the other hand, we need to be vigilant: we need to make sure we’re making the best use of every dollar being used in our budget. There are a lot of things unknown to us with the state budget and how much state aid we’ll get, so we have a lot of work to do.”

In fact, districts across New York state received support from voters. Following a preliminary analysis, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) reported on Wednesday, June 17, that a total of 383 out of 388 school budget votes passed this year; only five were defeated.

“Even in challenging times, voters resoundingly made clear that funding public schools at the local level is a top priority,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta stated on June 17. “Especially in times of crisis, public schools serve as cornerstones of our communities, providing not just an education but also meals, mental health services and other critical services. Students need our support, and voters overwhelmingly delivered.”

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