Voters reject school budget

| 21 Feb 2012 | 11:00

    CENTRAL VALLEY-For the second time in three years, the Monroe-Woodbury School District may operate under a contingency budget after voters rejected the proposed $119.9 million spending plan for the 2005-06 school year earlier this week. The vote on the budget was: 1,726 Yes, 2,282 No. The vote on a $1.79 million proposal to purchase new buses also was defeated: 1,802 Yes, 2,052 No. The spending proposal would have increased taxes an average of 5.7 percent. The School Board has three options: It can make no changes to the spending plan and offer it to voters a second time; it can offer a revised budget for a vote; or it can adopt a contingency budget that would cut spending by $2 million. Administrators already are reviewing where to find the state-manded reductions in a district that educates more than 7,200 students and employees 1,200 people. "By history, the board is probably not incline to put the budget up for a revote," Superintendent of School Frank Moscati said Wednesday, noting that voters rejected the budget two years ago. It passed last year, however. The school board has a work session scheduled for May 25 and a full session on June 8. Higher taxes and a perception, at least in some quarters, that the district has become too big were among the reasons some voters said they rejected the budget. Roughly a quarter of all eligible voters in the district went to the polls. And at least a quarter of voters cast ballots solely on the two spending issues and did not cast vote for any of the three uncontested school board candidates: incumbents Paul Belnick (2,416 votes); Jon Huberth (2,438 votes); and Susan A. Lofstedt (2,450). "Why should I vote for them?" said one resident who only voted against the budget and bus proposals. "They're responsible for the budget." Another voter said she was annoyed at the benefits the district pays its employees and at the size of the staff. The district did negotiate contracts that require employees to make some contributions to health plans, school officials said. Still, the district, like most every business and household, faces higher retirement and health insurance costs - up 14 percent. The Monroe-Woodbury School District is located in one of the fastest growing areas of Orange County, and the district expects to enroll another 100 or so students in the coming school year as it has for the last several. The district also has one of the largest school budgets in the county. The dollars spent to educate each student, however, is competitive at about $6,305 with districts like Warwick, Chester and Goshen. Voters in Warwick and Chester rejected their district's spending proposals in Tuesday polling; voters in Goshen approved its budget. "Whoever comes out, dictates the vote," Moscati said.