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Shelter Island School budget passes handily, 179 yes to 45 no

There was a relaxed air of confidence by Shelter Island School District officials before Tuesday night’s vote on its budget for the upcoming year.

That confidence was justified when results showed a huge win for the districts $13.1 million budget, with a final tally of 179 votes in favor of the budget and 45 who opposed the spending plan. Nineteen people left the budget proposition blank on their ballots.

Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D. noted a prediction that came early in the day from math teacher and information technology coordinator Walter Brigham who had offered numbers very close to the actual vote.

Individual tax bills will vary based on property assessments, but the average increase in property taxes is 2.32%.

The two incumbent Board of Education members running unopposed, Karina Montalvo and Margaret Colligan, each won another three year term. Ms. Montalvo garnered 196 votes while Ms. Colligan received 179.

Karina Montalvo has served on the Board of Education since 2020. (Courtesy photo)
Margaret Colligan a third three-year term on the Board of Education. (Courtesy photo)

There were several write-in votes, with former President Donald Trump netting one. Other write-in votes went to Mel Lowell, Kyle Burns, Mike Williams, School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel, Donna Clark and Frank Emmett.

Mr. Doelger thanked the Shelter Island community for supporting the budget. “The school district and students are very grateful to be in a town that supports us so much,” he said. “The district works very had to provide the best education possible while carefully watching our budget,” he said.

Board President Kathleen Lynch shared the joy of the win. “I’m thrilled,” she said, “but not surprised.”

She congratulated Ms. Montalvo and Ms. Colligan “who are exceptional Board members.”

Ms. Lynch said she’s glad both stepped up for another term.

The staff, administration and Board of Education had some major challenges to come up with a spending plan that would avoid going above the state-imposed tax cap. A number of budget items over which they have little control had increased. Those included health insurance premiums, contractual agreements that hiked salaries and benefit costs, special education mandates, utilities and transportation, since any off-Island activities require bus costs and ferry fares.

Tossed into the mix was Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) budget proposal released in January. For years, school districts could expect at least as much in state aid as they had received for the current school year.

Ms. Hochul wanted an end to that practice, based on her perception that districts generally had enough money in reserves to absorb cuts that she had proposed. If her cuts had been sustained, Shelter Island would have seen a 39% hit to its 2024-25 budget.

That the state budget failed to be secured by the April 1 deadline forced the district to adopt its budget, not knowing for certain that it would receive the same figure for state aid it had received for the current school year.

In the end, the district learned it will receive a little more from the state than it received for this school year.