Scott Richardson and Sonia Dixon won two open seats on the Freeport school board in Tuesday’s budget vote and trustee election, and residents also gave their approval to the district’s 2023-24 spending plan.
Richardson received a total of 588 votes, and Dixon collected 574. They defeated incumbent Ron Ellerbe (347), Joseph A. Smith (319) and Stephanie Rodriguez (278). Overall, 2,106 residents cast ballots.
Richardson, the father of three children who have all graduated from Freeport public schools — and who has a grandchild currently attending — is an oiler/tech in the village electric department. He has said he is determined to enhance morale in the district, and foster unity among students, parents, teachers and the community. He emphasized his commitment to collaboration on the board, with a shared objective of ensuring Freeport students’ success.
Dixon, the mother of four daughters, brings extensive experience as a volunteer, with over 20 years of working with Freeport youth. She is currently a member of the executive board of the Nassau Region PTA. She has said her focus will be on listening to the community in order to better understand district residents’ concerns and needs.
“It was shocking to see how many people turned out to vote yesterday, especially residents from all over Freeport, not just one area,” Dixon said on Wednesday. “It’s with humility that I take the school board seat.”
The budget for the 2023-24 school year, totaling just under $238.8 million, passed easily, with a vote tally of 865-279.
“This is a historic budget that in over three decades of my career I’m proud to present,” district Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said. “Finally, after over two decades of our advocacy, the foundation aid has been fully funded, bringing our fair share to Freeport.”
Proposition No. 2 also passed overwhelmingly, with 935 “yes” votes and just 154 “nos,” allowing the school board to access $2.5 million of the capital reserve fund established in May of 2017, at no cost to taxpayers.
The spending plan includes new course offerings at the high school, expanded music and athletics programs, modular cafeteria furniture, and flexible furniture in learning spaces. The district also has several ongoing and planned projects, including upgrades and renovations to locker rooms, public address systems, wellness spaces, athletic fields and playgrounds.
There are additional plans for masonry restoration, exterior brick repainting and replacement, window replacements, and work on sidewalks, parking lots, and fences districtwide.
The budget was made possible by a record increase in state aid, which boosted projected revenue by $29.1 million. There was no tax levy increase in the spending plan; in fact, there was a 0.12 percent decrease.
The district also received over $37 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The money will be used over a three-year period for learning loss recovery, after-school and summer programming, and capital project upgrades, including ventilation improvements and enhancements to program-related spaces such as classrooms and athletic fields.