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District 13 passes 2020-2021 budget in revote

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Voters passed Valley Stream Elementary School District 13’s $55.4 million revised 2020-2021 spending plan on July 28 after its original budget proposal was narrowly defeated in June.

The vote was 949 for and 783 against the revised budget, which made roughly $880,000 in cuts to increased spending compared to the district’s original proposal, including teacher retirement and health insurance spending, reductions to the summer recreation program and cuts to pre-kindergarten.

Voting was held in person, and while turnout was higher than in previous years — in 2019 District 13’s budget narrowly passed 584 to 532 — it was down from the original vote, which was carried out chiefly through mail-in ballots, and which saw a record turnout of 1,353 votes for and 1,522 against.

Board of Education trustee challengers Anthony Bonelli and Bill Freda had made district spending a centerpiece in their unsuccessful bids for seats on the board, arguing that the original budget’s roughly $2.2 million or 4.2 percent increase over the current year was too much in light of the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Taxes levied against property owners were set to increase 1.99 percent, which fell within the limits of state tax-cap restrictions. It was one of three school budgets defeated on Long Island this year.

The revised budget increases spending 2.51 percent and taxes nearly 1 percent. The results were certified on July 29. Should it have failed to pass, the district would have been required to adopt a contingency budget with a tax freeze and across-the-board cuts to expenditures, except those “considered essential to maintain an educational program, preserve property and ensure the health and safety of students and staff,” according to State Education Department guidelines.