Comsewogue's Cap-Busting Budget Fails by 33 Votes, District Recounting

School board member says voter turnout was 25 percent higher.

Comsewogue school district's did not get the supermajority it needed to pass. On Tuesday night the budget failed by a vote of ‎1514 to 1064, not enough to get the 60 percent required, according to school board member Rob DeStefano.

Update: School board member Fran Alabau-Blatter says that the district is recounting the votes. Check back for final results.

At 4.5 percent, the Superintendent's budget proposed to raise the tax levy above the state mandated maximum. To do this, the budget needed to pass by 60 percent of the vote. Ultimately it did not get the votes it needed to pass.

The budget ended up getting 58.7 percent of the residents voting yes, just over 1 percent shy of passing. The difference was 33 votes.

DeStefano said that ‎there was a 25 percent increase in voter turnout over recent years.

The budget was hotly debated over the last few months because it represented a and came after .

During the lead up to the election, Superintendent Joseph Rella tested public sentiment for passing a cap-busting budget. After much debate, Rella ultimately proposed the 4.5 percent plan calling it "educationally sound" in presentations.

According to Assistant Superintendent for Business, Susan Casali, by law the next budget vote will be Jun 19. Casali said that the Board of Education will decide which budget to present. She said that they have already stated at the public meetings they will present the property tax cap level budget of 2.6 percent with $2.9 million needed to be eliminated from the total budget.

If that budget is ultimately defeated and the district is forced to implement a zero percent increase in the tax levy, then it would need to cut $4.4 million from the existing budget.

Voting took place at gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

John May 16, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Before you move, you might want to get a new keyboard. Your caps lock key appears to be broken.
pjmom May 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
As a resident, a working mom and taxpayer I felt obligated to vote YES for the budget so as not to have so much more cut from my children!! I do, however, realize and agree that the burden of tax that has been put on us as a community has been overwhelming. Last year we passed an almost 10% rise in taxes. Where does it stop??? Shelley Saffer should not be making close to a half million dollars as a retiree. I couldn't even tell you what she looked like if I ran into her on the streets!!! Town of Brookhaven employees started paying into their benefits, so should the teachers. There are many people out there struggling in this economy...no one is superior and no one should have the easy way. Now, because of all these expenses and mismanagement of money, our children will suffer. They already don't get the attention they need in a classroom if they are struggling. Now there will just be too mnay of them in a classroom for the teacher to even be ABLE to help~!!!!
Living in Brookhaven May 16, 2012 at 03:33 PM
You really think that people who post here dont see what is going on and want it fixed?? Don't talk about a problem, talk about a solution.
v May 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM
they should just vote yes, because i want to actually do a sport
Fred May 16, 2012 at 06:07 PM
The problem is everyone blames someone else. The district blames Albany, who in turn blames the district. The teachers blame admin and vice versa. There is no accountability. Meanwhile our kids get shortchanged while the taxpayers get overcharged.
FedUp May 16, 2012 at 06:49 PM
It's about time this district and it's greedy overpaid administrators and teachers didn't get what they want. I don't believe at all that a budget increase of this magnitude is necessary. These disingenuous threats of taking away programs and that the children will suffer the most are nothing more than propaganda for them to get their budgets passed and keep their pockets lined. For working only 180 days a year it is sickening that these teachers making over 100k a year feel entitled to these huge raises and pensions that they don't pay into at all. The system needs to be beat, if this continues the children will really suffer when their parents are swallowed up in taxes and fighting over financial situations frequently as mine do. I am glad that I am graduating out of this district this year and will be 18 for the re-vote.
John May 16, 2012 at 08:09 PM
To see past years payroll, go here http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/schools/ and under Agency/Area select "Brookhaven-Comsewogue Union Free Schools." I think a step in the right direction would be eliminating tenure. For every bad teacher in a district earning $150k, there's probably 10 young people serving drinks and waiting for a $40k/year entry level teaching job. Why does a masters get them job security and raises for life when in every other field it means virtually nothing?
VP May 16, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Local and state governments are in the mess they’re in because tax revenue has significantly decreased. The root cause of this decrease can be put at the door-posts of a banking industry that approved unproductive loans, and a securities industry that sold meritless instruments. As a consequence, these actions caused home values to plummet, and joblessness to reach all time highs ultimately causing tax revenues to decrease. Yet, people buy into Newsday's continuous attacks on public pensions and teachers whose effects on the monetary problems of government are minuscule in comparison to the damage done by banks and Wall Street. Thus far not one banker or financier has been incarcerated. And for Matt who assails unions, unions paved the way to the middle class for millions of American workers and pioneered benefits such as paid health care and pensions along the way. Even today, union workers earn significantly more on average than their non-union counterparts, and union employers are more likely to provide benefits. And non-union workers-particularly in highly unionized industries-receive financial benefits from employers who increase wages to match what unions would win in order to avoid unionization. Even if you as a worker are not a union member, it may well be that whatever wage and benefits you earn, they would be far lower if unions did not exist. Regarding John's comment on tenure - tenure is due process. Something this country was founded on.
Jeff May 16, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Not true. Actually Dr. Rella has reduced his allowed under the law sick pay bank, has agreed to pay a portion of his health benefits for him and his dependents and has not taken a raise since taking that position. Show me one other school super that has done that.
Jeff May 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Why should you be able to vote??? I don't think it's fair that if you are not paying the taxes that you should be able to vote... Just think of how many people get to vote when they are packed into a house of 15 plus the homeowner....... Not fair.
Jeff May 16, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I agree. Tenure is a joke. Many of the younger teachers are worth their weight in gold and some of the older ones are a waste just reeling in the dough...
Jeff May 16, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Most people have jobs and NO guarantee that they will always have one. Why should teachers be any different.
Living in Brookhaven May 17, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Good, Ill vote yes when you come up with the money. When I went to HS I had to pay for everything involved with my sport. Welcome to the real world.
Pat Monem May 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Honestly I have no issue with Dr. Rella's pay. He works hard and LONG hours for his wage. I can't say the same for his predecessors. He makes himself available to the students and parents, has open scheduled office hours, attends school functions regularly and is not hidden away in an office. I need more than my two hands to count the number of times I've personally bumped into him at school events. Even at the elementary level. My second grader knows who Dr. Joseph Rella is!! Can you say that about any other past superintendent?
CS1194 May 17, 2012 at 05:21 PM
How about eliminating funding for the expensive BOCES program, or cut programs like Tech Ed and F&CS which are completely outdated and serve no purpose but filler during the day. Make middle school sports pay to play, and eliminate coaches pay altogether. Then you'll see who will really volunteer their time for the children. Why is it that every time it comes time to develop a budget that includes cuts, Its always programs that affect the brightest, not those who can't grasp simple concepts. But then again, this is just the way the American education has become. Everyone is equal, and those who excel can't be rewarded and motivated adequately for fear that little Timmy will get his feelings hurt.
Pat Monem May 17, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Instead of putting down children who may "not be the brightest" how about turning your efforts toward perhaps parents having a say in what programs get cut. This could come up at a Board Workshop - let the parents and adults deal with adult problems and leave the children out of it. Every child deserves a solid education equally. I for one would like to see them do away with the Regents exams - they are costly and serve no purpose if you go to schools outside of NY State. Rather they spend money on AP courses and Boces programs that help children not going to go to college learn a trade. Do you really want to support these children who are not college bound not learn a trade by paying for unemployment or public assistance? There must be ways for those contracts through Boces to be renegotiated as well. Even bus company contracts can be looked at. But picking on the little Timmy's of our district was cruel.
Anton May 17, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I would make sure some independent taxpayer representatives are present for this "recount." I'm sure if it passed by the same number of votes (or even less) there wouldn't be a recount.
Fred May 17, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Your argument for unions is flawed since by your own admission, union employees cost their employers more. Unions were a vital part of our labor field during the days of the robber barons. But today we have plenty of labor laws that cover all employees. Unions are no longer a necessity. Pensions, simply do not exist in the private sector as they are cost prohibitive. Pensions were instituted when frankly, people lived a lot shorter on average then they do know. Our modern economy can not support people working for 20 years, then living off the taxpayers for the next 50. While your reasoning behind the economic collapse is right, shame on the gov, local state and federal, for not planning ahead. And BTW , tenure is not due process, rather an entitlement.
Earl May 18, 2012 at 02:55 PM
How about you whiners about the taxes drink one less Starbucks a week then you could easily afford the increase! Its a sad day when those exact people were seen at the voting place with coffee in hand talking about voting it down. Between the budget that failed, and the one that will be presented next, it amounts to about 35 cents per day per household. Disgusting that it was voted down. Anyone that did should be ashamed of themselves. I am disgusted you are my neighbors!
Bryan Rivera May 18, 2012 at 03:32 PM
UGH! You just used the "buy less latte's" argument? That's almost as trite and cliche as the people making the "dumb jocks vs smart people" arguments. You are aware that not everyone on earth buys 10 $5 coffees every day, right? In fact, the demographic of the Comsewogue school district sure as hell doesn't fit the Starbucks clientele profile. Also, and Earl this doesn't pertain to your comment, but everyone is aware that in many instances, honors students also play sports. And that even average or poor students that play sports often go on to have fantastic careers, and some even out earn the nerds that everyone believes will be their bosses some day. We're conditioned every day to point fingers rather than make healthy suggestions to resolve problems. I haven't seen anyone bring up the abundance of high density housing in the Comsewogue school district, and the fact that people living in said housing pay roughly 25% of the taxes of a single family home. So all their kids go to school for 75% off. Not that you can kick these kids out of the district, but if you're looking for roots of the problem, there's one.
Fred May 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Wow, so Earl is going to tell me how I should spend my money. Democracy in action. Personally, I drink Saravin that I have to buy on sale because I can't afford the taxes I already pay. Maybe you can explain to my kids why we can't afford to go to Disney this year because we should just accept whatever budget we're handed right?
Earl May 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Fred, I have never taken my kids to Disney, and I have not had a vacation in almost 10 years, those are luxuries I cannot afford. Same for the Starbucks. I am not complaining either. I'll spend the money where it will benefit my kids. Uprooting them and sending them to different schools now, where they will not be in the same school again until my oldest is a Sr in HS, is not my idea of a positive move, and has also been proven to be detrimental.
Living in Brookhaven May 18, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Hey Earl, I live here and I don't drink coffee. I live in a house myself that I can barely afford to pay for. I work for a fortune 500 company and make a decent salary. The $300 or so dollars I would have to pay extra this year is simply not available for me. I believe your kids and the other students of the community do deserve a good education, but at what cost? Would you like to have myself, and others like me have our houses fall into disrepair and get foreclosed upon simply because we could not afford to pay our skyrocketing taxes? Would you prefer more houses with 15 tenants living in them? I paid just under 9k a year for taxes, and to ask me to pay another $300 is simply not fair. The reform has to start somewhere, and it needs to start with a community that stands up and tells the administration enough is enough.
Earl May 18, 2012 at 08:29 PM
The average increase would have been 300 per household, and all programs for the kids would have been left intact, as well as teacher not losing jobs, kids being uprooted to different schools, and class sizes getting larger. The tax cap budget is going to increase your taxes roughly $185. $115 over the course of a year amounts to pennies. If $115 is going to cause anyone to lose their house or fall into disrepair then you are simply doing something wrong. People need to learn how to handle their finances. The price of everything goes up, it always will. No one is going to change that. I work 2 jobs and my wife works as well. We live in a small house because that is what we could afford. Our taxes have more than doubled in the time we have been there, we still make it work. 9k in taxes in this area I am sure gives you a pretty decent sized house, probably a lot bigger than mine. Maybe you overbought if you cannot afford it anymore?
Fred May 18, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Earl, you seem to have a lot to say about how others spend their money. Why not ask the BOE how they are spending it instead of the residents? Our taxes are already too high. I would like to see an argument presented in favor of me voting "yes" based on sound financial principles, not parroting lines like "its for the kids" or "teachers are priceless". Last year I held my nose and voted yes, despite a 7+% increase, after I fell for the save our schools bit. Now the BOE comes back with a cap busting budget and I feel like I've been had. How much will it be next year? Or the year after that? $185 this year, "just" $370 last year, another $200 next year, those pennies sure add up quick don't they.
Earl May 18, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Go on the school districts website and you can see what is in the tax cap budget. The pennies sure do add up, but that happens in every area. The cost of everything goes up, don't expect it to come down. I'll be curious to see who the first people are to complain after the changes take affect.
Anton May 19, 2012 at 08:10 PM
"People need to learn how to handle their finances." Exactly. This includes the school disctricts.
Anton May 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
What if, instead of using the BS coffee comparison, you said, "one extra car payment per year," or "one extra monthly food bill per year," or "one month's worth of gasoline?" I guess that wouldn't make us feel nearly as guilty as the, "cup of coffee" comparison. Since when did we start using coffee as our currency instead of the US dollar? It's funny how in almost every discussion about a school budget, at some point a condescending school employee converts dollars to coffee. Enough of the nonsense. We really don't want to hear it.
Fred May 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I'm not happy with the changes/cuts either, but I still don't agree with your argument. "Cost of everything goes up" does not support this budget. These yearly increases have outpaced inflation, Consumer Price Index, wages or whatever indicator you want to use. There are many issues to contend with here, but what sticks out to me is the lack of foresight. Last year there were givebacks, positions eliminated and a huge tax increase. Did no one on the BOE think about what they were going to do next (this) year? I'd love to see a budget/system that provides long term sustainability, but I won't hold my breath.
Anton May 21, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Sachem's budget passed by 18 votes, no recount mentioned. See how this works? If it failed by 18 they'd be recounting for sure.


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