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May 22, 2012 4:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Malfunctioning Lever May Have Caused Proposition To Fail In Tuckahoe

May 23, 2012 9:16 AM

Grappling with the aftermath of a $17.8 million budget rejected last week by voters, Tuckahoe School District officials revealed at Monday night’s School Board meeting that a lever on one of the polling machines—the one recording “yes” votes for a proposition to install new heating pipes—was not working properly. The malfunction contributed to the proposition’s failure, but not to the failure of the budget, officials said.

The measure will be put to voters again at the time of a second budget vote, on June 19, officials said.

Proposition 2, which would have authorized the district to spend $465,000 from the capital reserve fund to replace deteriorating heating pipes in the crawl spaces of the school, failed, along with the 2012-13 proposed budget, shocking members of the School Board.

Deemed a “no-brainer” by School Board Chairman Robert Grisnik, the capital fund expenditure was expected to pass, since it would not cost taxpayers any additional funds. It failed by a 102-vote margin, 222-120.

Mr. Grisnik expressed his disappointment the morning after the vote and said the board would need to revisit how they educated the public about the capital project. At the same time, questions began to arise among school officials as to the accuracy of the voting machines. According to school business official Keri Loughlin, one machine had zero ‘yes’ votes, a statistical improbability.

Ms. Loughlin said the district contacted the Election Machine Service Company of Woodside to come out and investigate the polling machines on Thursday, May 17. The company confirmed that the Proposition 2 “Yes” lever on the machine marked for voters with last names starting with “A-L” was not functioning properly, and confirmed that all other levers were working correctly. Ms. Loughlin said the district would keep the malfunctioning machine locked up on-site and has requested new machines for the next vote.

The School Board will put the $465,000 expenditure before the public once again for a re-vote on Tuesday, June 19—alongside an amended 2012-13 budget.

Addressing Tuckahoe School parents and taxpayers on Monday night, Mr. Grisnik explained that the district has three options to choose from before the June 19 vote. The board can adopt a contingency budget—a spending plan that would carry a zero-percent increase to the tax levy; an amended proposed budget; or try again to pass the same $17.8 million budget as it stands.

School officials said it was too early to say what, if anything, could be cut from the spending plan, but they are looking to keep most of the programs they included in the first proposed budget, which stayed under the state-mandated tax levy cap, which limits annual increases to 2 percent. Not counting spending excluded from the cap, the district’s budget required a 1.9-percent increase in the tax levy.

If the budget fails again on June 19, the district would have no choice but to adopt a contingency budget, which would not allow for an increase in the tax levy for the 2012-13 school year. Mr. Grisnik said to adopt the contingency budget, the district would have to cut more than $300,000 in spending. All non-instructional and non-state-mandated programs, like the outdoor education program, would need to be cut, as well as three additional teaching positions: one elementary education position and two teaching assistant positions.

Some members of the public questioned the validity of including a full-day prekindergarten program in the budget, as well as the practicality of spending $24,000 per student, or $76,000 per special needs student, in tuition to the Southampton School District.

School Superintendent Chris Dyer said the district would like to keep the full-day pre-K program, citing a study he took part in over the last decade. He said the study concluded that a full-day pre-K program increased student performance levels, especially students whose first language was not English.

“The bottom line is, the population of the school is 60-percent Latino-Hispanic,” he said. “These students have no cultural background from the standpoint of the English language and do not have the basic strengths of commonality for expression of the English language. They have been secluded from socialization at school, and they’re coming into our school at about 19 to 22 kids per year—that’s with a part-time daily pre-K. When they enter kindergarten, these numbers go to 40.”

As for the high cost of tuition paid to Southampton each year, Mr. Dyer said school officials will sit down in a closed-door executive session with members of the Southampton School District on June 6 to discuss how to “strengthen the future relationship” between the two districts.

“Everything is on the table,” Mr. Grisnik said.

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It's time for Tuckahoe and Southampton to merge.
By interestedtaxpayer (21), southampton on May 23, 12 8:46 AM
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