members get OKs
By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY Did you feel that breeze Wednesday morning?
It was superintendents from all eight county school districts letting loose a sigh of relief.
Despite the economic crunch across the county, for the second year in a row, every single budget put out for voter approval was OK’d.
With a hike of 3.99 percent over last year’s budget, Liberty Central School put out the largest budget increase of any county school but the lowest taxpayer impact. With no tax hike at all, it got one of the most overwhelming responses a nearly three-to-one margin.
But even in spots where tax hikes were inevitable, the story was the same.
Livingston Manor’s $14.6 million budget passed muster with the taxpayers with another three-to-one margin, despite an estimated 2.5 percent increase in the tax levy.
Manor Superintendent Deborah Fox’s words at the new could have come from the lips of any of the county’s school heads.
“We are thrilled that it passed with such a healthy support from our community . . . especially in light of the economy,” Fox said.
A look at what happened around the county:
Voters approved the $16.8 million budget 261 to 140.
Also approved were a proposal to transfer $500,000 from its capital reserve fund in to the capital project fund (263 to 123) and the collection of the Sunshine Hall Free Library’s tax levy (273 to 123).
Carol Bliefernich ran unopposed and earned 222 votes to gain a seat on the board, with James Burns receiving 74 write-in votes and Michael Halloran’s name entered once.
A $36.4 million budget earned 273 yes votes to 153 nos, and two new board members were seated with two incumbents returning.
Valerie Sitz-Mahmoud ran unopposed for Lorraine Lopez’s vacant seat, earning 199 votes to 97 write-ins.
Ann Benson will fill the unexpired term of the late Melvyn Mednick thanks to 258 votes for her vs. one write-in.
Karen Pollack will be returning to the board with 265 votes (two write-ins were her only challengers), as will Shawn Wiles, who earned 287 votes (with one write-in).
The $38 million budget carried 324 votes with 91 people opposed.
An at-large election for three board seats resulted in incumbents David Burke (312 votes) and Daniel Parkhurst (307 votes) returning to the board. Newcomer Cindy Prince will take the third seat with 261 to challenger Evelyn Davis’ 248 votes.
The $14.6 million figure earned 198 yes votes to 66 no.
Returning to the board of education are incumbents Bryan Lamerand (185 votes) and Sandra Owen-Kelly (172). They held on to their seats despite a challenge from Daniel Taggart, who earned 122 votes.
Although the $76.8 million budget passed with 857 yeses to 524 nos, the bigger news in Monticello might be the board votes.
Both incumbents, including Board Chair Robert Stewart, were ousted
Stewart lost his seat to Robert Kunis by a vote of 762 to 626. Also ousted was Jacob Billig, who was second in the three-way race for his seat. Billig’s 547 were not enough to hold off Jo-Ann Peabody’s 782.
Peabody is the spokesperson for Bethel United to Save our Schools, a vocal group of mostly parents focused on protecting the futures of several of the district’s elementary schools.
Coming in third in the race was Robert Bellamy with 159 votes.
A third race, to fill the unexpired term of the late Eugene Nesin, was won handily by Susan Purcell with 1067 votes to Babette Ross’ 240.
With one of the smaller budget increases in the county (just .21 percent), the county’s smallest school district gained favor for the smallest budget. The $7.3 million figure curried 162 yes votes to 76 nos.
Voters also approved a $1 million construction project, which will represent phase two of a three-phase rehabilitation of the aging school building. The proposal earned 147 yeses to 84 nos.
A capital reserve fund will be created to pay for future renovations and technology improvements courtesy of 154 yes votes and 85 no.
Sale of the athletic field bus garage was the most well-received proposal of the day, with 167 yes to 73 no.
Board incumbents Merlin Brock (190 votes) and Edward Park (188) will return to their seats, besting competitor Dale Dutcher (67).
A $32.7 million figure that’s expected to raise taxes by 1.4 percent earned 631 votes to 269 nays.
Running unopposed, board members Rose Crotty ( 587 votes) and Noel van Swol (442) regained their slots at the helm of the district.
Vying for a seat vacated by Shaun Sensiba, John Reggero carried 589 votes over Shannon Dee Bailey ,who earned 299.
A $30.2 million proposal passed with 377 ayes to 268 nays.
Incumbents Mike Brooks (439 votes) and Brian Edwards (452) will return to their seats on the board of education.
They won’t, however, be joined by Lori Mickelson. The incumbent lost her seat with 331 votes to newcomer Donna Schick’s 379 in an at-large election.