Culotta re-elected, Peltonen joins board as Floral Park-Bellerose budget passes

Culotta re-elected, Peltonen joins board as Floral Park-Bellerose budget passes
Michael Culotta was re-elected Tuesday along with Rosemarie Peltonen, who will take the seat left vacant by Douglas Vigo. (Photo courtesy of the candidate)

Floral Park-Bellerose residents have voted in a $36 million budget and will have one new face on the Board of Education. 

The new budget was passed with 63% of 1,224 total votes. It is a 5.38% increase in spending from the current year and the tax levy increase of 2.69% falls elbow the allowable tax cap. 

Throughout the district, there will be work on HVAC utilities, security improvement installations, interior renovations and paving work with the help of $1,995,000 from the capital reserve fund, which passed with 69% of 1,339 total votes.

Incumbent Michael Culotta defeated Matthew Sexton for another three-year term with 780 votes to 421, enough for 65%

Rosemarie Peltonen defeated Michele Vincent to take the seat left open by Trustee Douglas Vigo with 720 votes to 501, enough for 59%.

Also approved Tuesday night was the $227 million Sewanhaka Central High School District budget and two propositions to use capital reserve funds for both districts. The budget passed with 66% of the district’s vote which had 3,839 total votes.

In Sewanhaka, almost $6 million will be used to upgrade the kitchens and cafeteria at Elmont, Carey, Floral Park and New Hyde Park High Schools, which passed with 71% of the 4,015 total votes. 

Culotta, a lawyer who moved to the district within the past 10 years, first got involved with the area during the redevelopment project at Belmont Park.

His main issues when first running included preserving the quality of life in the district as the project proceeded, universal pre-K and expanding the two schools in the district, which was eventually secured with the help of a $17 million bond. 

Culotta has said the district is currently in a transitional phase, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and returning to a sense of normalcy as one aspect while also calling for the need to engage in long-term planning.

Peltonen, a community resident for 21 years and former teacher district, said she believes she can bring a valuable perspective to the board. The candidate has been an elementary educator for over 30 years and was a parent in the district. 

If elected, Peltonen said she would commit to maintaining and enriching the services for all children with an emphasis on the importance of early intervention services. In addition, Peltonen said she would focus on making students exceed grade-level expectations while being fiscally responsible.

“I believe the central considerations should be how will this decision impact each child, each classroom and each resident’s bottom-line and how will we provide clarity, transparency and understanding to every community member about the decisions made,” Peltonen said. 

Other issues Peltonen mentioned included valuing discussion, transparency and accountability as hallmarks of the board and pushing to hire “people that work directly with students daily” when budgeting allows it. 

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