School district budgets approved during mail-in balloting – Mid-Hudson News

MID-HUDSON – Poughkeepsie City School District voters have voted to approve a $104.45 million budget for the 2020-2021 school year, returned incumbent Debra Long to the board, and elected a retired city court judge Tom O’Neill to the board of education.  Property owners in the district will see a 3.55f percent tax increase.

Long currently serves as the board’s vice-president and said she ran again “because I believe in the importance of ensuring that every child receives a quality education in order to be successful.” Her tenure has included working on improving the district facilities, even during the pandemic. “I look forward to remaining the chair of the construction and facilities committee and while working diligently in providing our champions with that state-of-the-art educational system that will increase all areas of academic achievement.”

O’Neill said he was “thrilled” to win a seat on the board and was even happier that his running mate, Debra Long, was re-elected.  “Debra is an extremely important member of

Debra Long

the board.”

The former lawyer and city court judge is familiar with the current board and district administration.  When the district brought Dr. Eric Rosser in as superintendent, O’Neill spoke at the ceremony and issued the oath of office to Rosser.  Of the budget vote, O’Neill said he was surprised that it passed given the circumstances, but is pleased with the outcome.  “In my role as a neophyte member of the board, it will certainly make my job easier as custodian of taxpayer monies.”

Retired Judge Tom O’Neill.

School Board President Dr. Felicia Watson weighed in on the budget vote. “The Board is ecstatic that the community stands in support of Superintendent Rosser in his justification of the collection and expenditure of public funds. This approved budget showcases the community’s confidence in the school’s leadership and general management.  The district faced an influx of adversity during the budget process, including a pandemic that lead to state aid cuts and program defunding which negatively impacted some staff being downsized. Despite fiscal setbacks and obstacles, the district forges ahead in its mandate to ensure students receive a quality education and that teachers and staff receive the support and resources needed to fulfill district educational objectives.”

Dr. Eric Rosser called the budget a “team process” and was thankful for the voter support.  “Specifically, the community passing our budget is evidence that our community is in full support of the direction the school district is going into, but more importantly, they are in support of what we need to do for our children,” adding “I’m appreciative of our community seeing that our children are number one and our children need to be supported with a quality education.”

Satara Brown, founder of Rebuilding Our Children and Community credited those involved with creating the budget for 2020-2021, noting that there were pre-existing conditions that Rosser inherited along with the pandemic.  Regarding the school board composition, Brown believes that O’Neill “will be a key player in the board continuing and improving their efforts in serving the students and families of the district.”

O’Neill took a moment to address the low voter response in this year’s mail-in balloting process.  “District Clerk Becky Torres did a tremendous job given the hurdles put in place by the pandemic,” he said.  More than 14,000 ballots were mailed to eligible voters.  Voters were asked to vote for two school board candidates out of three on the ballot, along with voting yes or no on the budget.  Approximately 2,350 voters, a little more than 16 percent returned ballots.  “So few people take advantage of their constitutional right and their civic obligation to cast a ballot – it’s disappointing.”  The budget passed with 1,554 yes votes compared to 769 no votes.

In Hyde Park, Dr. Greer Rychick, district superintendent sent an email announcing the passing of their $101.63 million budget, saying in part, “Thank you to all our voters!”  Rychick added “Thank you as well to all who helped get the word out about the vote and the new format this year.”

Other districts in the region also had their budgets approved by the voters.

In Orange County, Middletown approved a $199.99 million spending plan; Monroe-Woodbury voters passed a $183.99 million budget; Newburgh Enlarged City School District had their $287.43 million budget approved.

In Sullivan County, Liberty School District’s $50 million budget was approved.

In Ulster, Kingston’s $187 million budget was passed along with Ellenville’s $52 million plan and Wallkill’s $77 million budget.

Dutchess County’s Wappinger Central School District voters approved a $245 million budget while Arlington’s $224 million plan was approved.  Beacon’s $75 million plan was approved as well.


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