Despite majority support at the polls, New Paltz’s school budget still failed Tuesday night – a mere 18 votes away from getting the 60 percent super majority needed to pass a budget above the state tax cap.
When it came to whether or not they supported the $50.31 million budget, 1,726 voters said they did and 1,180 said they did not. That meant only 59.39 percent of voters supported raising the tax levy by 4.4 percent next year.
“It did not pass,” Superintendent Maria Rice explained.
Voters did opt to allow the district to buy $339,000 worth of buses by a slim margin. Of those who voted Tuesday, 1,426 supported the buses and 1,373 did not.
In a crowded school board race featuring no incumbents at all, voters went this way:
– Dominick Profaci received 1,776 votes.
– Ruth Quinn received 1,641 votes.
– Brian Cournoyer received 1,497 votes.
– Tanya Marquette received 961 votes.
– Marvin Birnbaum received 575 votes.
– Julie Tresco received 568 votes.
Former school board President Don Kerr got two write-in votes.
According to Board of Education President Patrick Rausch, Profaci will be sworn in Wednesday for having been the highest vote getter. He replaces Barbara Carroll, who was an appointee serving out Kerr’s term.
Profaci said he was glad to have won the support of the public and said he thought he could get along with both Quinn and Cournoyer as board colleagues. “I think the three candidates who were chosen were excellent choices by the community,” he said.
However, both he and fellow board member-elect Cournoyer said the failure of the budget – especially by only 18 votes – made the night one of mixed emotions.
“Honestly the most important thing in this election, to me, was for the budget to pass. I’m just very upset that it went down by such a small margin,” Cournoyer said. “I’m really just very upset about the budget. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. I know the board will have to come back with a second budget and be able to pass that one.
“It didn’t fail by a wide margin. I’d just like to state for the record that the 60 percent super majority rule is undemocratic. It allows the minority to rule, and that’s not how democracy works.”
So what happens next? Voters will have to return to the polls for Round Two in late June. As for what budget they’ll see on that ballot, that’s less clear.
“We have to regroup, and we have to decide what we’re going to do,” said Rausch, the school board president.
In preparing the $50.31 million budget with that 4.4 percent tax levy increase, the New Paltz Board of Education also came up with an alternate budget that did meet the tax cap mandate. New Paltz’s legal limit, after exemptions, is a 3.4 percent tax levy increase.
When asked if the school board would simply revert to that 3.4 percent budget – which would only need 50 percent voter approval to pass – Rausch said it wasn’t that simple. “It’s not automatic. The board would have to discuss,” he said.
Superintendent Rice will come back to the board with her recommendation. Board members would then have to decide if they’d follow or reject that advice.
For more about the fallout of the failed budget, check out next week’s edition.