UPDATED: School Budget Passes by 18 Votes, Duncan Re-Elected to Board

Budget approved on supermajority vote; incumbent Douglas Duncan defeats Jeff Vinci and Jon Siegel for only contested Board of Education seat.

Sachem residents green-lighted a 2012/13 school on Tuesday, giving the $291.36 million proposal the 60 percent supermajority it needed to pass.

The spending plan, over the state's new tax cap, received 60.2 percent of the vote, 5,031-3,323. With 8,354 votes cast, the budget required 5,013 votes for it to be put into effect.

"I mean this, I've been here 30 years and I have never, ever once been disappointed by the people in this community and I can continue to say that," Superintendent James Nolan said after the votes were tabulated.

Incumbent Douglas Duncan won the single contested Board of Education seat handily, defeating Jeff Vinci and Jon Siegel for another three-year term. Duncan received 3,406 votes, Vinci tallied 2,159 and Siegel received 1,435 votes. Incumbents Rob Scavo and Michael Isernia ran unopposed to hold onto their seats.

The approved budget represents a 1.2 percent spending increase over the current year and a 4.2 percent hike in the school tax levy. The tax hike is above the 2.8 percent allowed under the tax cap, thus the budget needed the 60 percent super-majority in order to override that cap.

The scene at Nokomis Elementary School as the results rolled in was as tense as can be. School officials gathered around a screen showing the numbers, which hovered around 58 percent approval as the first several schools reported figures.

With 11 of the 12 elementary schools reporting, the approval figure was at exactly 60 percent. That left Grundy Elementary School, election district #12, as the make-or-break polling location. When Grundy reported a margin of 447-273 (62 percent approval), the main office at Nokomis erupted in applause, hugs and congratulations.

"As long as the 60 percent is in play, it really changes the game entirely," Nolan said. "Most definitely we have an incredibly supportive community, but that 60 percent, all I kept thinking was even if the community comes out and supports it at 59 percent, no good."

The slim margin the budget passed by "was way too close for comfort," said Scavo, the current school board president.

"We haven't experienced this close of a race since the EXCEL bond [in 2008], which passed by 24 votes and to sit there and have to think about going back and making cuts that are going to affect children always sits in the back of your head," Scavo said. "And that's the last thing you want to have to do so we are grateful for the community. We are grateful for the people who came out and supported the budget."

Officials have called the now-approved budget a "rollover budget, minus five teachers." The district will lose 30 teachers to retirement next year, but under the new budget, the district expects to replace 25 of them.

While school officials were relieved with the outcome of the vote, Scavo said the board, hopeful of further restorations in state aid to the district, would "work diligently [next year] to try to get to that cap so we don't have to experience anything like this again."

Despite the rainy weather, turnout was up 7.4 percent from last when 7,779 votes were cast.

Sachem was one of 17 out of 124 districts on Long Island to propose a budget over the tax cap. More than 90 percent of school budgets on Long Island were approved Tuesday, but seven of the districts, Three Village, that attempted to override the tax cap saw their budgets defeated, according to Newsday.

Duncan, Scavo and Isernia Re-Elected

Duncan cruised to a third term on the Sachem Board of Education, receiving 48.7 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Vinci tallied 30.8 percent of the vote and Siegel, a former BOE trustee, collected 20.5 percent.

Incumbents Scavo and Isernia ran unopposed with Scavo re-elected to a third term and Isernia securing his first full term on the board after being appointed to the board in 2010 and winning a one-year term last year.

Duncan, who was first elected to the board in 2006 at the age of 18, said Tuesday's victory, in a race that turned particularly heated in the last couple of weeks, was the most satisfying of his three wins.

"This definitely tastes the sweetest," Duncan said. "The nice thing about this is the Sachem community overwhelmingly rejected negative politics, slander, personal character attacks and it's nice to know that this community can see through that." 

Siegel, reached via email Tuesday night, said that while he "disagreed with the district exceeding the state's tax cap with such a surplus being left this year, I respect the democratic process and the community voted accordingly.

"As for the board seat, I knew a three-way election was going to be difficult as the incumbent has the advantage and it played out that way. Nevertheless my next goal is getting a district petition finalized for at-large elections for next year, so there are no more three-way elections," Siegel said. "Congratulations to all of the board members."

Vinci could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.



S May 16, 2012 at 01:44 AM
boooooooooooo! This is such baloney! I really wish people would hold the board accountable for the ridiculous spending habits of Sachem School district!
George Stenby Jr May 16, 2012 at 07:28 AM
The School Board may be cheering, but it makes me wonder how many people will be forced to leave, not only the Sachem school district but the State of New York, because they cannot afford to pay a tax burden that continues to increase.
Karen Murphy May 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM
All you people do is complain! How much are your school taxes really? Do you know? What do you spend on other things that you don't mind paying for that are totally unneccessary! If you are not happy here then go! You know the saying the grass is always greener somewhere else. Go find it. You want everything but don't want to pay for it! Apparently the people of Sachem want to give their children the best they can! This whole 60% percent thing is ridiculous anyway. A higher number should beat a lower number and percentages should have nothing to do with it. That's our wonderful Governor who gives everything to his people upstate and leaves Long Island in the dirt! He needs to go!
Nanette May 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Thank you Sachem residents for coming together and supporting our children!! Yes times are tough, but if we don't provide the best education for our children we will never recover. It is not just about the classroom, but the Music, Art and Sport programs that are needed to make the adults of tomorrow well rounded community members. I applaud the Sachem residents.
Michele Favaro May 16, 2012 at 01:50 PM
If a resident as to leave Sachem over less than $10 per month, their problems are much bigger than school taxes. Now we all have to come together and fight back against the Governor who will not even show his face in our town and listen to our concerns. And as a life long Democrat I am saying this!
Bob Novak May 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM
The SCTA calls people to remind them to vote and ask them to vote for Duncan. I find this unethical. Is BOE in bed with the SCTA? The BOE serves the community [not well] not the teachers.
Michelle Antonelle May 16, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Well said!
Joseph Scarola May 16, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I have been a homeowner in the Sachem school district for almost 26 years. I've heard many people complain about the high taxes here on L.I. If the people keep rubber stamping the proposed budgets, nothing will ever change here. I know the board is cheering that the budget was approved but when will the people learn. For instance, if the increases are averaging 3-4% per year, were talking about a 30-40% increase in the next ten years. The home owners can not afford this! Your kids can't afford to stay on L.I. now, do you really think there is a future here for them. Remember our home values have decreased in these last few years but our property taxes haven't. These increases are not sustainable in the long run. So those who are celebrating today, I don't want to hear one complaint on the cost of your real estate taxes! The kind of change that is necessary will not happen under the current leadership or the mindset of those who voted Yes.
Phyllis Bartone May 16, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Great now our prop tax go up more!! Giving that school dist more money doesnt make a better student only more people leaving li
alexandra May 16, 2012 at 09:02 PM
We are Sachem!
Allyson May 17, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Every teacher I have ever met at Sachem has gone above and beyond the call of duty, both inside the classroom and at many after school and evening events.(My favorite event is sport's night!) The teachers always have smiles on their faces and they radiate enthusiasm. I feel that my tax money is very well spent because my child takes advantage of all of the opportunities offered at Sachem, and we also do everything we can at home to support the teachers' efforts. We do our part by sending our child to school each day ready to learn. The teachers take it from there! If you want to make the most out of your taxes and your childs' education, it is your responsibility as tax payers, community members and parents to take advantage of the many resources Sachem has to offer! I am thrilled with the budget results. I am so proud of the way we "synergized" in order to provide the best education possible for all Sachem students.
Jamie May 18, 2012 at 02:08 AM
You want to cut taxes?? Tell our elected officials to stop with these unfounded mandatates, Tell Cuomo to stop dumping all the money Long Islanders pay in taxes upstate while only returning a small portion back to LI? Want an example Board of Regents cuts certain state tests and regents but yet does not remove the requirement for graduation, does that make sense?? So teachers now have to work county wide to come up with a county test ( on the school districts time and money) and the districts must now pay for the preparation of this test as well as the printing all as a result of a now unfunded mandate, Just a small example, as to how this stuff adds up.
Jamie June 04, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Just curious if Mr Vinci ever plans on taking down his signs. They are all over the place!


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