Harrison voters overwhelmingly approved the school district's 2012-13 budget Tuesday, with a whopping 72 percent supporting the proposed $104.2 million spending plan.
A group of supporters applauded the announcement as it was displayed on a projector at LMK Middle School Tuesday night. A total of 1,579 people voted in favor of the budget while 612 voted against it—the widest margin in decades. All four elementary school districts voted in favor of a budget for the first time in history.
"This is a historic night in Harrison," said Superintendent Louis Wool.
The showing of support comes during the first year of the New York state's tax levy cap. Harrison administrators cut millions of dollars in spending from the 2012-13 budget between November 2011 and late March before approving a preliminary budget beneath the cap. The budget also includes no program cuts.
Voters responded by showing historic support.
"I'm amazed," said Robert Salierno, Harrison assistant superintendent for business. "I was so concerned, we didn't really know what to expect with the 2 percent tax cap and how people were going to interpret that, but I think we put together a good budget."
As expected, incumbents Joan Tiburzi and Dennis DiLorenzo were both elected to new three-year terms on the Harrison Board of Education, winning uncontested races. Tiburzi thanked her supporters Tuesday night, saying she views the results as a vote of confidence from the community.
"I think it shows that the community has come together to support our school district and our children," she said. "We've not only managed the finances well, but we've been able to protect the programs for our students while maintaining a tight budget."
DiLorenzo also thanked the community for its support.
"On behalf of the Board of Education and the children we serve, I would like to thank the community for such an overwhelming show of support in the endorsement of the budget," he said. "We will continue to work hard ensuring that all the students in the district are challenged, given opportunities, and supported in a healthy and safe learning environment."
All three seats in last year's Board of Education election were contested. That race included rampant debate about state test scores, high school curriculum and other issues. This year the uncontested race for two seats flew relatively under the radar, leaving the primary focus on the budget.
"It provided us opportunities to focus on the budget at garner support to pass the budget and to help the community understand exactly what is going on," Tiburzi said.
This makes 12 consecutive proposed budgets that have received voter support in Harrison, the last failed budget being in 2000. The Board of Education will certify the election Wednesday night during a scheduled meeting at LMK Middle School. The approved budget means the tax rate for Harrison's voters will increase approximately 3.08 percent next year.
Wool said the Board of Education will begin working with school administrators on a budget plan for 2013-14 within the next few weeks, wasting no time tackling future obstacles.
This year's budget was helped along by a teacher retirement incentive and reductions in special education costs that likely won't be available next time around.
"I wouldn't want people to think that they have felt the full affect of the tax cap," Salierno said. "There are a lot of one-time budgetary benefits that we had that we won't have next year, so I think it's going to be a tougher road next year."Harrison 2012-13 Budget BOE Vote
Joan Tiburzi Dennis DiLorenzo Harrison Avenue School 548 224 533 408 Preston Elementary School 218 107 157 159 Purchase Elementary School 538 120 438 329 Parsons Elementary School 275 161 226 256 Total 1,579 612 1,354 1,152
*Results are unofficial