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Slam Dunk On Budget Vote: A Landslide Oyster Bay-East Norwich Voters Say ‘Yes’

Budget passes with 63 percent ‘yes’ votes to 37 percent ‘no’

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich school budget vote on May 15 passed by a wide margin, with 1,158 Yes votes to 680 No votes; the capital expenditure referendum passed 1,106 to 581; the OB-EN Library budget passed 1,185 to 448. Running for the school board, Robin Dando, received 1,222 votes. Scott Tepper garnered 1,249 votes for a seat on the library board. The numbers include about 20 absentee ballots.

Before a vote was counted, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington said, “We are going to do fabulously.” Resident Bob Santos commented, “You know I’m very positive. The vote is going to pass easily.”

Dr. Michael Castellano said, “The budget will pass. We stuck to the cap so it will pass.”

Dr. Dennis O’Hara, OBHS principal too said, “Oh, it’s a yes.”

When the numbers were counted, they were correct. The numbers were unheard of to regular board watchers in a district where the difference in winning can be about 20 votes. The budget passed with 63 percent Yes votes, to 37 percent No votes.

As board member James Mattel called out the numbers of the first machine for the budget: 329, Yes and 182, No, the style was set. The capital expenditure vote came in 311 to 154; the library vote at 324 to 127.

Robin Dando got 342 votes for her seat on the school board and Scott Tepper got 344 for his seat on the library board. “Two people like him better than you,” quipped Walter Dorfman. Both were running unopposed for their positions. Everyone laughed. There was a feeling of camaraderie in the foyer of the OBHS gymnasium. Everyone was on the same page.

Still, waiting for the next machine’s count, Dr. Harrington said, “It’s the longest five minutes of my life.”

The second machine came in with the budget passing with 240 votes to 143; the capital expenditure vote was 229 to 131 and the library budget was 244 to 102. Ms. Dando got 247 more votes to Scott Tepper’s 259.

“You know it’s going to pass. I predicted a landslide,” said Bob Santos.

The third machine tallies were: budget, 277 Yes to 174 No; capital expenditure 262 Yes to 143 No, library 291 Yes to 101 No. Ms. Dando got 317 votes and Mr. Tepper, 308. Machine four results were: budget 296 Yes to 173 No; capital expenditure – 288 Yes to 145 No; library, 306 Yes to 113 No. Ms. Dando got 297 votes and Mr. Tepper got 318.

As soon as the last machine count was given, the audience broke out in applause.

The OB-EN school district vote has never, in the past 30 years, had such a landslide vote. Mr. Castellano said of the vote, “I’m happy. All that hard work paid off.” He credited the tax cap explanations for getting the message out that it was a good budget. Board member Steve Zbdula said, “I’m glad they stayed within the tax cap. That was the deciding factor. It made the difference.” “It gave a finite number,” added Mr. Castellano.

Add to that the cuts in the technology costs and the savings from special education changes and the budget made the grade.

And to set this vote off from all others, besides the great pass numbers, there was one write-in vote — for Oyster Bay resident and board watcher, Grace Searby.

As for Ms. Dando, she said, “I’m looking for another four years on the board.

As Mr. Santos was leaving, he said, “I predicted it. It was a community effort.”

At the next board meeting on May 29, Mr. O’Hara will be making a presentation on his college awareness program that gets students fired up to focus on working to get into the college of their choice – with great success. The board meetings are held in the high school library on the first and third Tuesday of the month, at 8 p.m.