Above: School Board Candidate Tom Gleeson (top, far left) waits to hear the results of Tuesday’s election.
By Claire Walla
Coming as no surprise to the small crowd gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School gymnasium Tuesday, May 15, the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed $34,182,256 million budget passed by a landslide, with 892 votes for the budget versus only 420 against.
Similarly, Proposition #2, which will allow the district to spend up to $575,000 for the purchase of six new buses, passed with a similar margin: 851 to 432.
“I’m very pleased the budget passed,” District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto commented after the results were read. “And I’m pleased the bus proposition passed.”
This year’s election garnered 1,377 total votes, a drop of 264 from last year.
The 2012-2013 budget represents a spending increase of $956,172 over this year’s operating budget. But, more importantly, is represents a tax-levy increase of only 1.94 percent, which means it successfully falls below the two-percent tax cap imposed by New York State for the first time this year.
The real nail-biter this year was the race for school board, which had three candidates vying for two open seats. In the end, incumbents Gregg Schiavoni and Walter Wilcoxen each managed to secure another three-years on the board, putting Schiavoni in his second term and Wilcoxen in his third.
“The vote on the board is a testament to the trust the community has in the job this board has done,” Dr. Gratto noted.
When the votes had all been tallied, Schiavoni was the clear victor with 1,039 total votes. Wilcoxen came in second with 795 and Gleeson was a not-too-distant third with 576 votes.
Many in the gymnasium that night congratulated Gleeson on a hard-fought campaign.
“It’s tough to beat the incumbents,” Gleeson said after having walked over to congratulate Schiavoni on his win. (Wilcoxen had a work conflict and was unable to make it to the gymnasium before doors closed at 9 p.m.)
“It was a good learning experience,” he added. “I just hope the board continues to improve education. The kids are what’s most important.”
With his youngest daughter — who stood by his side as results were read — graduating from Pierson this year, Gleeson said his loss wouldn’t mean he would vanish from the district.
“I’ll try to stay involved as much as possible,” he declared.
In the wake of his win, Schiavoni — flanked by his two young sons — smiled as he talked about his plans for the upcoming year.
“What’s next will be keeping track of IB [the International Baccalaureate program], making sure it’s implemented correctly, and keeping track of the Pre-K program,” he said. “Going forward, we just have to keep the ball rolling.”
In an interview the day after the vote, Wilcoxen said he was excited to find he had been elected for a third term.
“We have a lot of challenges, like trying to understand how we can deal with each other more effectively [as a board],” he said. “That seems to be number one on the list.”
But, he added that supporting IB and continuing to find ways to make the school’s finances more transparent will be key issues in the coming year.
After congratulating candidates, both board members Theresa Samot and Chris Tice said they were very pleased to hear the election results for the budget this year.
“The margin the vote passed by was really great,” Samot exclaimed, as Tice noted it was nearly 2:1. “The administration put a lot of hard work into the budget.”
Board member Sandi Kruel concurred with this sentiment, and applauded voters for passing Proposition #2.
And to her fellow board members about to begin their new three-year terms, she added, “Congratulations.”