The Edgemont Union Free School District’s 2018-19 budget passed May 15 by a total of 260 yes votes to 48 no votes.
Board of education president Jennifer Darger was grateful for the confidence residents showed through an 85 percent approval rate of the budget.
“Many in the district worked very hard to collaboratively put forward a budget that is fiscally responsible while preserving and moving forward the excellence that our community has come to depend upon in our schools,” Darger said. “We value this strong expression of support and assure the community we will continue to work hard to merit the trust and confidence demonstrated by this tremendously favorable vote.”
A total of 308 people voted on the $59.1 million budget, which is more than 100 votes down from the 465 total votes in 2017 and the 443 total votes in 2016.
Superintendent Victoria Kniewel said the decrease in voter turnout was likely due to the thunderstorms that occurred the same evening as the vote. Although the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., it’s common for residents to vote after they get out of work.
“At 4:45 pm on Tuesday, May 15, we had the same number of voters as the previous year,” Kniewel said. “The evening numbers were lower. Many of our parents were stuck in Grand Central Station and couldn’t make it home on time to vote. There were also a number of families who were home and did not venture out based on the dangerous weather forecast.”
However, Kniewel was still appreciative of those who did come out to vote and echoed Darger’s sentiments, saying the task of providing a good education takes the entire community.
“In Edgemont, we focus on an excellent education in collaboration with all stakeholders in a fiscally responsible way,” Kniewel said. “We are grateful for this vote of confidence from our community and are appreciative of our faculty and staff, who build relationships with students and parents and inspire greatness through their dedication and expertise.”
The 2018-19 budget includes a tax levy increase from $49.8 million in 2017-18 to $51.9 million in 2018-19.
The district will pay $46.1 million in personnel costs, which includes $32.2 million in salary. This is up from the $44.2 million in personnel costs and $31.1 million in salary paid out this year.
The budget also includes funding for additional Google Chromebook laptops, which will allow every student in grades 5 through 8 to have a laptop as part of the district’s 1:1 program.
In addition, the budget will finance a new Intensive Communication Achievement Program class at Edgemont High School. According to district officials, the “ICAP” program “serves Edgemont students with significant communication disorders and/or autism diagnosis.”
The budget will also help provide additional safety and security upgrades to the schools, four new English electives and a revision of the math program to offer additional paths through which students in mid-level courses can take calculus as seniors.
The May 15 election also included the chance to vote on three Edgemont School Board Nominating Committee-endorsed candidates vying for the three open board of education seats.
Darger and co-vice president Brian Yarrington are finishing two full, three-year terms and board member Michael Bianchi is finishing an interim one-year term.
Bianchi filled in for the board this fall when former board member Kenneth Orce had to step away from the second year of a three-year term due to family health reasons.
The three candidates, Mariquita Blumberg, Pamela Montgomery and Nilesh Jain received 254 votes, 249 votes and 242 votes respectively.
Blumberg and Montgomery, who received the most votes, will fill Darger and Yarrington’s seats and each serve a full three-year term. Jain will serve the final year of Orce’s term.
Blumberg, who was present at Edgemont High School as the May 15 election came to a close, said she is looking forward to serving on the board.
“I’m excited to serve the community in this way, and am glad I have the support of the community in doing so,” she said after the final votes were in.
Blumberg also said she was glad residents came out to support the budget which, she said, “was put together in a really effective way this year.”
Jain also spoke to The Inquirer after the polls closed, noting it was “absolutely great” members of the community came out to support him with their vote. He added he knows he will have to learn the ins and outs of serving on the board.
“There is definitely a learning curve for any new member that comes in,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to learning the whole process.”
Montgomery told The Inquirer she was “thrilled and honored to have the support of the Edgemont community,” adding she was “excited to partner with the community and the administration to maintain and enhance the excellence of an Edgemont education for all Edgemont students.”
Current board member and co-vice president Jonathan Faust said he is sad to see Darger, Yarrington and Bianchi go but took solace in two things.
“First, the three of them will remain good friends and active members of the Edgemont community,” Faust said. “Second, I am excited to work with Nilesh, Pamela and Mariquita … they bring fresh perspectives and new energy to the board. The [School Board Nominating Committee] and the voters have a great track record of choosing excellent candidates for the board.”