New Paltz and Highland school budgets pass overwhelmingly

With Tuesday’s elections offering just two candidates for two open seats on the boards of education in both the New Paltz and Highland districts, the only question was whether or not the proposed 2019-2020 budgets would pass.

When the polls closed, both districts saw their budgets approved by a wide margin. New Paltz Central School District voters supported a $63,640,000 budget with 782 casting a ballot in favor and 320 opposed. Voters in the Highland Central School District also approved the budget proposed to them, with 629 votes for and 197 opposed to a budget of $44,442,937.

Two candidates were approved to fill two open trustee seats on the Board of Education in New Paltz: incumbent Sophia Skiles, who earned a second term, and newcomer Bianca Tanis. Both seats carry three-year terms that begin July 1 and end June 30, 2022. Skiles received 861 votes and Tanis 877.

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The two incumbent candidates running to retain their longtime seats on the Highland board, both for a fourth term, were also reinstated. Sue Gilmore received 590 votes and Tom Miller 642. The two will begin their three-year terms July 1 and retain them through June 30, 2022.

Highland voters also approved a $450,246 bus proposition by a wide margin, with voters casting 600 votes for and 221 against. The passage of the proposition will allow the district to purchase three 30-passenger buses, two seven-passenger Suburban vans and two wheelchair buses. State transportation aid will reimburse the district for 60 percent of the amount, amortized over five years.

The Highland budget came in at $837,832 less than the 2018-19 budget, a nearly two percent decrease, but the tax levy will rise to $28,313,197, reflecting a 1.12 percent increase of $312,733 over what voters collectively paid last year.

The 2019-20 New Paltz budget of nearly $64 million reflects a 2.98 percent increase over the 2018-19 budget and brings with it a 3.98 percent tax levy increase. The purchase of six buses is included in the total; there was no separate bus proposition this year because of a change in the way the tax levy is calculated. The district allotted $490,000 in the budget to pay for three 65-passenger buses, one 20-passenger bus, one wheelchair-accessible bus and one school car for small groups.

Both budgets were both calculated to fall within the tax cap, requiring only a simple 50-percent-plus-one majority vote to pass. Voter turnout in New Paltz was comparatively low, with just 1,102 voters coming out. The vote for the 2017-18 budget brought out 2,228 voters, with the 2016-17 vote count at 1,475 and 2013-14 at 1,895.

The Highland district also had a comparatively low voter turnout, with 826 voters casting a ballot. They had 1,296 voters in the May 2016 election and 1,125 voters a month later for the budget that passed on the second try. The 2015-16 budget voter turnout was similar to this year, with 904, but in 2014 the district had 1,256 voters.

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