Close to 1,500 Huntington Union Free School District (HUFSD) residents came out on Tuesday to vote for or against a Capital Reserve Fund Referendum which would release $2 million for construction and improvement of the Woodhull Intermediate School. After the votes were tallied in a suspense-filled Huntington High School lobby it became obvious that HUFSD residents were not in approval as the referendum was defeated, 863-624.
While many residents said they agree that Woodhull requires reconstruction and additional classrooms to accommodate incoming fifth- and sixth-grade students, the majority of Huntington school-district residents who voted Tuesday said they couldn't vote yes with the district's current configuration. Many said they voted against the referendum because of the removal of students from Jack Abrams Intermediate for the upcoming school year, thus overcrowding the primary schools with kindergarten through fourth-graders.
"[The people] were not voting against the money, but voting against the board closing their schools," said one Huntington resident working the polls, who asked to remain anonymous.
Rebecca Sanin, a Huntington Station resident who voted against the referendum, said she did so because the district doesn't seem to have a long-term plan right now.
"As it stands, community members who have always supported their school district's requests for spending are struggling with their strong belief that voting yes would mean supporting fiscally irresponsible decision making," Sanin said in an e-mail. "Community members who regularly vote yes to budgets and referendums [voted] no on Tuesday because it delays a decision to spend money until a time in which a viable plan is in place."
Sanin added, "Nobody disputes that improvements to our buildings are positive for the school district and our community, but such improvements should be made in a strategic manner to address the urgent needs and issues faced by the various buildings and with an understanding of how the buildings will be used as our district grows. ... A no vote is not a 'spite' vote as some allege, but rather a strong request that the Board of Education stop and plan before they spend additional taxpayer money."
Marina Obermaier, a Huntington resident and mother of two in the district, was one of the 624 people who voted in favor of the referendum. She explained that she saw no reason to delay spending as its obvious that upgrades are needed on buildings like Woodhull.
"The Board of Education has already made the decision to overpopulate," Obermaier said. "We have the money, it doesn't raise taxes, and building costs are low."
With a daughter in the fifth grade at Woodhull and a son at Southdown Primary School who will be attending the intermediate school in a few years, Obermaier said she believed her children would benefit if the renovations were made.
"I'm future minded, future focused," she continued.
Jim Hoops, the Huntington School District's public information coordinator, explained that because the referendum failed, the Board of Education will now have to develop a consensus among its members on what they want to do next.
"I am not really sure what direction they would go in or when they would decide on anything," Hoops said. "Again, I do not think a decision would be reached quickly."