The decision to pierce New York's tax cap blew up in officials' faces Tuesday as Three Village voters rejected the proposed $178.6 million budget.
Just 56.74 percent of voters approved the budget, which would have raised the tax levy by 4.48 percent. Since the budget exceeded the 2 percent cap, it needed a supermajority of 60 percent voter approval to pass.
"They sent us a message," interim superintendent Neil Lederer said. "We'll have to make some adjustments to bring the budget in at the cap, and hopefully we'll be successful."
By the numbers, here's how residents voted:Polling Site "Yes" votes "No" votes Margin Arrowhead 688 372 +316 Mount 733 525 +248 Minnesauke 901 696 +205 Nassakeag 688 453 +235 Setauket 931 989 -58 Totals 3,981 3,035 +946
The failure of the budget sends school officials back to the drawing board.
"We'll revisit it now," Lederer said. "I'm sure the board will vote to go back out to have a second vote on June 19 that more than likely will be at the cap."
At this point, the school district has three choices: immediately adopt a contingency budget with a zero percent tax levy increase, put the failed budget up for a revote on June 19, or draft a revised budget at or below the cap that would be put to a vote on June 19. At recent meetings, Lederer said if the budget failed the first time around, he would recommend that the district stick to a budget at the Three Village tax cap level of 2.99 percent, which would need just a simple majority to pass.
Creating a budget that sticks to the 2.99 percent cap would require another $1.9 million in budget cuts on top of the $6.5 million already taken into account in the failed budget, administrators have said.
According to budget documents available at the Three Village school website: Whereas the failed budget would have cut approximately 85 full-time equivalent positions, a budget with a 2.99 percent tax levy increase could see as many as 125 eliminated.
Administrators have said at recent meetings that the additional cuts could threaten full-day kindergarten, junior high school athletics, and the nine-period day at the high school.
The final decision will lie in the hands of the Board of Education, which will meet next on May 22.