New Paltz school budget passes by overwhelming majority

By a more than four-to-one margin, the $70 million New Paltz school budget was approved by voters May 18. Incumbent board trustees Glenn LaPolt and Diana Armstead retained their seats, and will be joined on the seven-member body by Heather O’Donnell and Johanna Herget. 

It was a long day for election workers. District clerk Sandra Ermo was on site at the high school gymnasium by 5 a.m. to set up for polls opening at seven o’clock for 14 hours. The counting itself took until after midnight, with the sticking point being getting the number of absentee ballots matched. While it was once common for there to be so few absentee ballots cast that they could not alter the outcome from the tally of machine votes, that was not the case this time around. Interested administrators and candidates chatted about district affairs and local history during that time, while custodial staffers finished as much as their work as was possible around the milling poll-watchers and huddled election inspectors. 

With a clear sense of relief, Ermo was able to announce the tally just after midnight. 910 district residents voted in favor of the budget, with just 193 rejecting the spending plan that will result in a slight reduction of the property tax levy—thanks to state legislators rejecting the governor’s plan of further reducing state aid through various gimmicks. LaPolt received 823 votes, providing a clear mandate to serve a second term. Newcomers O’Donnell and Herget received 630 and 559 votes, respectively, while 550 were cast for Armstead. 

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Only three seats were up for full three-year terms this year; these will officially start in July. The fourth election was to fill the unexpired term of Sophia Skiles, who resigned last year; that seat has been filled by appointee Matthew Williams. Armstead will replace Williams as of the May 19, temporarily paring the board down to six members until Herget and O’Donnell are seated. Trustee Michael O’Donnell did not seek reelection.