Locust Valley schools pass spending plan


The Locust Valley Central School District budget passed on Tuesday, while Matthew Barnes, Holly Gaddy Esteves and Nicholas DellaFera were elected to the board of education, and Lauren Themis was re-elected. The vote came after a tumultuous year for the district, which lost both its superintendent and board president in just two months.

The $94 million spending plan passed by a vote count of 1,294 to 865, while Proposition 2 — establishing a capital reserve fund — was approved with 1,216 “yes” votes and 529 “nos.”

The district increased the tax levy by roughly $1.7 million, or 2 percent, which was below the state tax cap for the district. The increase in spending will help cover the costs of health insurance and benefits for teachers and staff, which have continued to rise over the past few years.

District administrators said they were able to keep the tax levy increase relatively low by managing alternate revenue streams such as state aid and interest earnings. All told, the district raised roughly $7.5 million from alternate revenue sources, which helped reduce the need to rely on taxpayers.

“I am very grateful for all of those who came out to participate in this year’s budget vote and for

the community’s collective support for our schools and our students,” Janine Sampino, interim superintendent, said in a statement. “We are excited to continue to offer wonderful activities and strengthen our programs.”

The capital reserve fund will be used to pay for short-term as well as unexpected but essential expenses, such as repairing damaged buildings or replacing aging equipment.

Members of the administration, including Toni Meliambro, assistant superintendent for business affairs and human resources, have pushed for the creation of a capital reserve fund throughout the budget process. Meliambro and others argued that such a fund is essential for addressing future projects, like upgrading playground equipment in the elementary schools and replacing the middle school roof.

Funds for the reserve won’t come from taxpayer, but rather will be drawn from budget surplus at the end of each school year.

“The Board of Education is truly appreciative of the community’s support for this year’s budget,” board President Margaret Marchand wrote in a statement. “The process of creating the budget is meticulous and the district thanks Toni Meliambro, Dr. Sampino and the entire staff of the business department, central office and administrative teams district wide.”

The school board now counts three new members. Barnes and Esteves will serve full three-year terms, while DellaFera will face an election next year, because he taking over the seat of former President Brian Nolan, who left the board midway through the year for personal issues. 

Each of the trustee-elects — except DellaFera, who could not be reached for comment — expressed their gratitude to voters.

“It is with a heart full of gratitude that I extend a huge thank you to our LVCSD community,” Themis wrote in a statement. “I am humbled and overwhelmed by your support and look forward to serving our amazing district for another 3 years.”

“I’m just really pleased,” Barnes said. “I think the overall turnout was fantastic, and I’m very excited to move forward and get sworn in. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work for what the constituents are asking of us.”