A small fraction of East Ramapo voters easily approved the district’s $191.9 million school budget Tuesday during a revote, bringing closure to a long and anxiety-ridden budget season.
The 2012-13 spending plan, virtually identical to the one taxpayers rejected last month, was approved by a vote of 3,562 to 1,217, according to unofficial results announced by the district late Tuesday.
“I think parents understood that we would have to cut $2.6 million” if the budget failed again, Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein said. “We don’t have to cut any more programs; we can move forward.”
For months, district staff, parents, students and community members have weighed the potential loss of East Ramapo’s kindergarten program — in full and in part — among steep cuts to programs and staff made to comply with the state’s new property-tax cap.
The budget approved Tuesday is about $7 million less than this year’s budget, though it contains a total $12 million in cuts, including the elimination of more than 90 staff members and the district’s full-day kindergarten program. A half-day kindergarten program will remain.
The “yes” vote paves the way for East Ramapo to move forward with the next looming challenge: how schools will operate safely and efficiently next year with far fewer teachers, social workers, assistant principals, teaching assistants, library media specialists and others.
If the budget had failed a second time at the polls, the district would be required to adopt a contingency budget with a zero percent tax-levy increase and be forced to cut another $2.6 million from the spending plan.
Among the cuts could have been the remaining half-day kindergarten program.
District officials have hinted that new revenues could help bring some employees back, depending on Medicaid payments the district receives and how much money is saved by concessions made by the teachers union in a new, five-year contract approved this month.
The union, whose contract is up June 30, became a focal point in the budget process after the May 15 election, when the budget was first rejected and two Orthodox newcomers were voted onto the school board, raising the majority of Orthodox and Hasidic board members to 7-2.