residents turned out in small numbers through midday today to render judgment on a and .
Under gray skies, polls opened at 7 a.m. at the in Mohegan Lake and were scheduled, as rain fell intermittently, to remain open until 9 p.m. Besides the budget and board races, voters were being asked to approve a million-dollar bond to buy 13 new school buses.
Kathy DeMaio, the district clerk, described turnout through the morning hours as "very light."
A snapshot sampling of a handful of early voters found that with varying degrees of enthusiasm most of favored the budget.
"Like most taxpayers, I’d like to see the tax rate go down," a Cortlandt Manor man said, then shrugged and reported that he’d voted for the spending anyway.
"I always vote for the school budget," said Edward Scrocca, a retired teacher.
With spending unchanged from the 2011-12 level, the proposed budget complies with strict new state restrictions on increases in the property-tax levy. But tax rates would rise by varying amounts in most of the district, including Yorktown, where the average bill would climb 2 percent.
Another retired teacher, Kathleen Turner of Yorktown Heights, preferred to keep her secret-ballot decision a secret and said only that she, too, "would like to see the tax rate go down."
Robert Nugent of Yorktown Heights who has three young reasons—all of them attending the —to see the budget approved, said he hoped it passes. He exhorted an unseen throng beyond the Van Cortlandtville gymnasium to “come out and vote.”
Retired teachers Martin and Donene Larkin of Cortlandt Manor did just that.
"We supported the budget," Martin Larkin said. "We always support the budget."
But another Cortlandt Manor resident, Elias Smith, made it clear he did not. "
The budget is terrible," he said. "It’s too high. . . . No increases, please."
Reminded that the proposed budget capped spending at year-ago levels, Smith countered, "It’s time they started decreasing." He said he had registered a resounding no in the voting booth.
If voters rejected the budget today, the district could either schedule a second vote or adopt a contingency budget, requiring another $2 million in spending cuts and achieving a zero increase in the tax levy. A second voter rejection of the proposed budget would mean a mandate to the trustees to adopt the contingency spending plan.
In the trustees contest, one person stands to lose. Challenger of Mohegan Lake, an administrator in the East Ramapo schools in Rockland County, and three incumbents—, and , all Cortlandt Manor residents—seek three school board seats.
The Van Cortlandtville Elementary School, across the street from the Cortlandt Town Center on Route 6 in Mohegan Lake, is one of eight schools in the sprawling Lakeland Central School District. The district draws some 6,300 students from six towns in Westchester and Putnam. Lakeland’s overall property-tax levy would rise by 1.97 percent, a permissible increase under a strict new tax cap, which limit hikes to a state-calculated percentage of the previous year’s total.
A levy—in Lakeland’s case, $105,767,938—represents the total money a district must raise through property taxes. But each of the district’s towns is responsible for a portion of the levy and sets its own tax rate, expressed as the amount a homeowner must pay for each $1,000 of a house’s value.
Differences in assessment practices, however, create disparities in the towns’ respective tax rates, which state equalization rates are meant to surmount, theoretically spreading the tax bite fairly.
Outside of Yorktown, the proposed 2012-13 rates vary widely, falling by 0.7 percent in Putnam Valley, for example, while climbing 5.6 percent in Carmel. Elsewhere, rates increased in Cortlandt by 3.2 percent; Somers, 1.7; and Philipstown, 0.4.
While the proposed budget, at $157,235,514, exactly matches current outlays, it includes $1.2 million in spending cuts. Savings were largely achieved through retirements but without layoffs, district officials said. The zero-increase budget maintains things like class size and academic, interscholastic and co-curricular programs.
In the bus vote, an OK would let the district buy four 30-passenger bus vans, two Suburban-style bus vans and seven full-size buses at an estimated cost of $1,035,000.
Budget naysayer Smith was just as outspoken in his opposition to the buses.
"Get them rubber-soled shoes," he said of the district’s students. "Let them start walking. It would get rid of the obesity problem and save gas, too."