District 15 voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed both a $93 million school budget and a $2.9 million library budget, while handing the school board incumbents new terms on the board.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is the huge deficits that catapulted the challengers for the Peninsula Public Library trustee seats to victory over the incumbents.
“It was great. The message resonated with the voters,” said Jeffrey Leb, who defeated incumbent Stanley Nussbaum, 3,240-1,415. His running mate, Sarah Yastrab, beat incumbent Patricia Pope, 3,255-1,343. “Voters were able to understand the issues well. They want reform and accountability, and it’s our goal to provide that for them.”
Yastrab added the results mean the community cares about the library. "Though the current board has worked hard, the people of the district would like to see a change, and a fresh approach to how things are done," she said. "It's humbling that they've put their faith in me to be part of that team."
The school budget, which is .36 percent lower than last year’s fiscal plan, was approved with a powerful 3,187-792 votes. The library budget saw similar approval — 3,118-747.
Board President Murray Forman received 3,319 votes to defeat challenger Nicole Di Iorio, who received 2,199. Board Vice President Dr. Asher Mansdorf got 3,656 votes, while his challenger Gywnn Campbell received 1,903.
The vote is a sign that residents of District 15 support the current school board’s platform of keeping taxes low while maintaining a similar level of education.
“I think the budget is high enough and I think the board is doing a good job,” said Even, of Cedarhurst, who cast his vote for Mansdorf and Forman at Lawrence High School on Tuesday. “I clicked yes on both of them because I trust the board is doing a good job. If they are proposing something then I assume that it is in line with what needs to be done in the community because they are at the forefront.”
Many of the voters that spoke with Patch indicated they’d like to see school taxes lowered more.
“My husband and I want the schools to be good, but we’re worried about the cost,” said Pat, of Atlantic Beach, who did not want to give her last name. “Everything keeps going up, but our salaries don’t increase.”
Herb Merek, of Woodmere, acknowledged that some budget items aren’t up to the board. “The budget is as balanced as it can be. Of course, there are costs that have to go up – labor costs, pension costs – that nobody can control,” he said.
Mansdorf, who won a fourth term, said he interprets the election results as a sign that education is important to most District 15 voters. “They have been disabused of the notion that anger is a vehicle for change,” he said. “Change is brought about when one recognizes that the status quo can be improved by identifying weakness and developing new strengths.”
Andrew Shilling contributed to this story.