Long Islanders head to the polls to vote on school district budgets

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LINDENHURST -

Residents of the 124 school districts on Long Island headed to the polls Tuesday to vote on their school budgets.

Many parents had school safety on their mind this year in the wake of a massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 

An extra focus on security spending comes in the wake of that school shooting, which is an issue that has encouraged more young people to become politically active.

MORE: See school vote results here

VIDEO: Newsday senior education writer gives insight on school budget vote

But local property tax hikes crop up every year, too.

This year, the average proposed school tax hike is just under 3 percent, and school taxes make up nearly two-thirds of the average total property tax bill on Long Island.

North Bellmore was the only district in Nassau County seeking to pierce the state-imposed tax cap this year, which meant it needed to garner 60 percent of the votes cast to pass. It failed.

Voters there had two different matters to consider. The first was the budget itself, which carried a 3.4 percent increase. The second was a measure to provide more buses for students that would have brought the tax hike to above 5 percent.

North Bellmore officials say a good portion of this year's extra budget would go toward improving the library.

Voters also considered board of education candidates around the Island.

In Lindenhurst, senior Gabrielle Anzalone was one of two 18-year-olds running for their school board. She said she was inspired to run after she and other students were disciplined for participating in National School Walkout Day to pay tribute to the Parkland shooting victims and demand stricter gun laws.

One of her ideas, she said, is to invite a student representative to board meetings. 

"Maybe once a month, just to explain some of what's going on," she said. 

In Eastport-South Manor Central School District, senior Kaitlyn Gambina was also on the ballot running to become the first student elected to the board in that district.

But severe weather also struck the region Tuesday evening, and education expert Michael Cohen said that could have impacted voter turnout.

"Weather's always a wildcard," he said.

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