Voters Pass Override City School Budget, Easily Eclipse 60% Threshold  

Rye voters overwhelmingly backed the city’s school budget on Tuesday night, marking the first time the district spending plan exceeded the state’s tax limit in nine years. 

Rye voters approved a $110.5 million school budget by more than a 2-to-1 margin Tuesday night. Photo Christian Falcone
Published May 22, 2024 9:27 PM
3 min read

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Rye voters overwhelmingly backed the city’s school budget on Tuesday night, marking the first time the district spending plan exceeded the state’s tax limit in nine years. 

The $110.5 million budget passed with roughly 72 percent of the vote, surpassing the 60 percent supermajority needed to override the cap. The final votes were tallied shortly after 9 p.m. with 969 taxpayers approving the budget, and just 383 voting against it, according to district officials. The results remain unofficial until certified by the county Board of Elections.  

“Well, we’re pleased,” Schools Supt. Dr. Eric Byrne told The Record. “I mean, there’s a lot of hard work that went into building the budget and getting out and talking to the community and hearing feedback. And, you know, we take that responsibility to be good fiscal stewards very seriously.” 

Byrne said the budget’s approval puts the district in a favorable financial position and he doesn’t envision the need for another override budget for the “foreseeable future.” 

“We will do our jobs and do it well, and make sure that we spend the money wisely,” he added. 

The 2024-25 budget, which raises the property tax levy by 6.55 percent, will cost 6.41 percent more than the current year’s budget – an uptick in spending of $6.6 million. Those year-over-year increases mark the highest since 2015-16, also the last time the district busted the tax cap that had been signed into state law in 2011.  

Tuesday’s turnout of 1,352 voters – there are 10,802 registered voters in the school district – was a far cry from the 2015 override vote, which saw 3,461 ballots cast. In more recent years, participation has reached decade-low voter totals of 859 (2022) and 1,066 (2023).  

And Byrne suspects the tax cap environment has led to some voter apathy. 

“I think when you look historically across the state since the tax cap was put in place, you see a dramatic decrease in voter participation in school budgets,” he said. “So, when you look at nine consecutive years of tax cap compliant budgets (in Rye) … sometimes people feel like … ‘I don’t need to vote on it.’” 

The Harrison, Scarsdale, and Chappaqua school districts also proposed override budgets on Tuesday night. Voters approved the budgets in Harrison and Scarsdale, but rejected the budget in Chappaqua. 

From left, Matt Schibanoff, Valerie Lapham, and Callie Erickson were elected to new terms on the city Boad of Education Tuesday night.
Photo courtesy Rye City School District

This override budget is the first in Rye under Byrne, who took over as head of the school district in 2017. To remain under the 3.47 percent state-designated cap threshold, the district would have needed to slash roughly $3 million from the budget. 

Included in the approved budget is $1.7 million for capital expenditures, with upgrades to the high school’s athletic facilities considered the big-ticket items.   

The basketball gym will be painted, the flooring replaced, the bleachers renovated, and the lighting upgraded to make it energy efficient. The softball field will be dug up, new drainage installed, and the infield and outfield overhauled. The wrestling room inside the high school will have ventilation installed and new wall padding and mats installed. 

Byrne said the district can now put those projects out to bid and begin some of the work this summer, with the softball field project expected to be completed before next spring season.  

This year’s vote also ushered in, for the first time, early voting for school districts as part of recent legislation — expanding early voting opportunities to school districts and libraries across the state — that went into effect on Jan. 1. There were 86 ballots cast early, according to district officials.  

Board of Education member Callie Erickson was re-elected to a third term, while newcomers Matt Schibanoff and Valerie Lapham were also elected in an uncontested elections Tuesday night. The three candidates will serve new three-year terms.  

The district’s new fiscal year begins on July 1.  

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