Voters in Pearl River overwhelmingly approved the $58.99 Pearl River School District budget for 2011-12 Tuesday.
Turnout was down from 2010, but of the 1,865 who voted, 1,460 (78.3 percent) cast their ballots to approve the budget, the highest percentage of yes votes for the budget in 20 years in Pearl River.
"I'd like to thank our community for their support tonight," Pearl River school board member Bruce Bond said. "I know there wasn't a lot of controversy otu there with no board races, but our community still came out to support the school district on a rainy day when they didn't have to do it. That's what makes our community a great place."
There was no suspense to the lone vacancy on the board of education. Incumbent Thomas DePrisco ran unopposed and was re-elected to a new three-year term with 1,465 votes.
The item on the ballot that was the toughest to call before Tuesday was Proposition 2, which calls for a reduction in the number of students at the high school who will be eligible for busing. The measure passed with 1,170 yes votes (63.4 percent) to 674 opposed.
The new range is three miles for students in grades 9-12 and two miles for students in the eighth grade. The change was made to save the district money, approximately $190,000 for 2011-12 alone.
"I think it was important to come out today to pass the budget for the school," Pearl River parent Allison McKenna said. "I also came out to vote no for the (reduction in) busing. I am going to have two high school kids in a couple of years and I want them to have busing. I think they should have talked about it a little bit more. I don’t think a lot of people knew that it was going to that. People don’t think it affects them and it probably does."
Pearl River resident Eileen Francis has had three children go through the district.
"I've been living here for 18 years I like this town and I want to make sure the value of living here continues," Francis said. "I think it is an excellent system. As long as they maintain what they have and continue to push the children to do the best they can do. And not have to cut any activities, including art and sports."
The district was able to avoid heavy cuts in programs and personnel in large part due to salary renegotiations by the teachers, adminstrators, teaching assistants and clerical staff.
"We would be in a totally different place right now if it wasn't for our labor groups that contributed unbelievably for us this year," said board of education president Michael Clohessy. "It didn't go unnoticed by this board and hopefully, by these results, it hasn't gone unnoticed by the community, either."
Other items of note in the budget include:
- A 2.75% tax levy increase
- A 2.43 percent estimated increase in homeowners' tax rates. The passing of the transportation reduction lowers this increase to 2.4 percent.
- Keeps class sizes the same in elementary schools and core subjects at the middle and high school level
- Maintains adult education programs.
- Eliminates 8.8 faculty/staff positions through retirements and elimination of programs without sufficient enrollment.
- Reduces expenses for substitute teachers and chaperones on field trips
- Reduces textbook spending.
The voter turnout of 1,865 was down from 2010, when 2,566 people voted, but that was a year with three candidates running for two board of education seats. The lowest turnout in the last 20 years in Pearl River came in 1998, when only 1,079 voted.
The percentage of votes to approve the budget was a large jump from five years ago, when a 20-year low percentage of 54.9 were in favor.
Here's an overview of all the election results:
Pearl River Proposition One Vote - 2011-12 Budget
Pearl River Proposition Two Vote - Transportation